19 APRIL 2010


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Article from BTNews 19 APRIL 2010


Mother-nature has struck the airline industry with real vengeance, the volcano in Iceland has paralysed air travel in Europe and across the world with flights destined for Europe being halted. It is true that some air travel has returned in Europe by the time these words reach you but the industry must wait and see if the force of the volcano reduces or stops or if the wind changes direction.

Those with knowledge of this, the volcanologists just can not say when the volcano will stop and some even say it could be many months before it subsides. Then if it does stop it might return even greater in the Katla volcano, so we could even be worst than it is now.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers have been effected, stranded passengers with nowhere to go or even the comfort of the disruption being covered by insurance because it is a natural disaster. We hear on the news the stories of those who have been effected by the eruption. The situation changes hour by hour but again by the time you read these words the volcano might have stopped and the airlines are trying to get back to normal.

On another matter, earlier this week, I had the opportunity to spend a little time at London City Airport between getting a visa for Kazakhstan and the Business Travel Club meeting at Covent Garden later that evening. It struck me how much at the airport had changed but how little some of the local landscape had not.

In the early days there were just Dash 7 turboprops with no sign of jets of any kind using the airport, now things have moved on, throught the first generation of regional jets, ie BAE 146 and nowadays to the second generation the Embraer regional jet family of aircraft. Of course the closeness of the City of London and Canary Wharf has been one of the driving forces of the airport's success but there are still times when the airport is at a standstill with little landing and taking-off. There are still opportunties for airlines with the right kind of aircraft to have services into London.

Luxair moved out of Heathrow and into London City completely, so some of the smaller European airlines might consider doing that also. If the majority of their clients are business people and they need to be in the city quickly then the London City Airport is the answer.

The area around has benefitted too, with housing developments and the community as a whole growing more prosperous but there are still vast areas of wasteland waiting for something to happen. The 2012 London Olympics will benefit parts of East London like Stratford and maybe that benefit might extend to the old docklands too. Hopefully soon the 'Olympics' effect will kick-in and Londoners will start to get behind the games. It is time London shouted the fact that we are the Olympic City and that the greatest sporting event in 2012 will happen in London.

How many of us have seen the green 2012 Olympic logo on advertising billboards yet? Are the organisers ashamed or embarassed by the logo? What about tee-shirts, collectable pins and other merchandise, they should be on sale now, afterall revenue from those will help to pay for the games and the games do need the money. Otherwise we will have to find extra taxes to pay for the games and on the face of it, very few of us will get to be in the stadiums to watch the action given the current Olympic ticket policy.

On the question of Olympic Games security, London needs a second heliport and it needs it by the start of the games in 2012, not a field 20 miles out of town but one just a few miles from Stratford. I know the local agreement at London City precludes helicopters but for a few weeks in August 2012 maybe somewhere close-by to the airport a heliport might spring up. Again during the games will airport operations be effected with flights being stopped, who knows what is happening maybe someone would like to tell us.

The British Organisers have completely ignored the need to make provisions for any helicopter traffic and believe that everyone from Presidents to ordinary members of the public will travel by public transport. Put simply, VIPs won't want to travel on trains or in BMWs they will want to land close-by the venue by helicopter. The Organisers have even ignored all the British helicopter companies by awarding a contract for any aerial work to a French company, so when you watch the road cycling or marathon the pictures will be brought to you via a French helicopter company. The 2012 London organisers need to act and start to think about VIPs now, make plans to set-up a temperary helipad for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic games and more importantly start supporting British helicopter companies.

If ever you meet me, don't get me started on the 2012 Olympics, I will rant on about it for hours. Someone telll me am I turning into a grumpy old man.

Terry Spruce, Guest Editor

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