This week: Heathrow tracking system launched, Luton sold, Snowden’s late departure

Once again, we’re a day ahead of our regular time to update you with this week’s airport news. This week we found the following topics for you:

The week started off with a tip from the Financial Time, stating Abertis, a Spanish infrastructure group, is close to announcing the sale of its majority stake in London’s Luton airport (LTN). The deal then got confirmed on Thursday when the same newspaper reported that Spanish infrastructure groups played pass-the-parcel with the airport as Abertis confirmed the sale of its majority stake in the UK’s fifth biggest airport by passenger numbers for €502m, about €10m more than initially estimated. According to the paper, Aena, the new owner, plans to nearly double capacity at Luton, which in 2012 was 10m passengers, to about 18m a year. It believes that more can be done to make the journey to central London quicker and smoother, and to boost the airport’s image.

A newspaper article in Australia titled “12 months to airport chaos” had our firm attention on Tuesday. The article in the The Australian reported that roads around Sydney Airport (SYD) will reach gridlock within 12 months, with traffic jams stretching for kilometers in all directions – but, according to the article, the airport’s plans to alleviate the problem won’t be finished until 2018. In the article authors of a joint state-federal study urged the state and federal governments to boost public transport services to the airport and drop the $11.80 station access fee for passengers using the airport train line.

Then on Thursday we received the confirmation that Edward Snowden was able to finally leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport airport (SVO). It was all over the news, so we won’t bore you with much further details, just this sentence from The Washington Post that summarizes the action pretty well: Snowden slipped away in a taxi on Thursday from the airport that had been his home since June 23, bearing a Russian refu­gee certificate granting him permission to stay in the country for one year. We surely call this one a real “late departure”!

Back to the United Kingdom where Heathrow informed us with an innovation. The British Telegraph wrote that London’s Heathrow (LHR) is rolling out a new system of smart boarding cards that it believes will put an end to the last-minute frantic search for lost passengers and could improve the punctuality of nearly half of flights. Heathrow’s press release read that the computer software now live in Terminals 1 and 3 has been designed so it is compatible with all airlines’ computer systems. It enables airlines to see what stage of the departure process a traveller is at and gives passengers bespoke information to help make their flight on time. According to the airport’s own calculations, late-running passengers are responsible for 50,000 minutes of delays a year at Terminals 1, 3 and 4, creating a bill of £3.5m.

And Heathrow also unveiled their first ever food guide to the airport. According to their press release the guide, created in conjunction with John Torode and Gregg Wallace – who were appointed as the airport’s official taste buds earlier this year – has been released ahead of the busy summer holiday period. Providing a comprehensive overview of the dining options at the UK’s only hub airport, Food on the Fly reviews the 73 bars, cafes and restaurants at Heathrow and features specially formulated top fives and a breakdown of the eateries by terminal – giving passengers a simple way to track down something tasty to enjoy pre-flight. There are also top tips available about the type of foods to eat or avoid before flying for those looking to travel well. You can download your free copy of the Heathrow food guide here.

And to finish off, this odd news from China: The Telegraph reported that eagle-eyed airport security guards in southeast China have caught a man attempting to smuggle his pet turtle inside a KFC hamburger. According to the article, the smuggler, named as Mr Lee, was stopped at Guangzhou’s international airport (CAN) on Monday morning after an airport X-ray machine detected unusual “protrusions” poking out from a sandwich inside his bag. The man, apparently, handed the turtle, which was not named, over to a friend and continued his journey alone.

That’s all for this week – safe travels!

[Photo showing Heathrow’s new tracking system is from Heathrow Airport – all rights reserved]