This week we’re changing the format of our weekly news round-up slightly by giving you the headlines of the news items we cover up front. This way it will be easier for you to scan the contents in order for you to jump to the articles that interest you most quickly. We hope you like it. Here are the topics of this week:
Every now and then you get a week with a lot of slightly out-of-the-ordinary airport news all coming in at the same time. This has been exactly such a week: We found news from a Swedish retailer moving into airport space, a baby smuggle attempt, a tower evacuation, sinkholes, a refurbished terminal and two emergency landings. Sounds interesting? Told you!
It was a long and very busy week with airport news headlines such as: Drug war hits airport, bird strike delays flight, airlines cry foul over Thai airport transfer or glamorous new terminal opens in the United States. It went on and on, but – as always – we bring you the essence of the top airport stories from the week, all neatly packed in digestible portions.
This week we have three news stories that have all one thing in common: the airports the articles are about are regulars of our little weekly news round-ups. We’re talking about Vancouver, Bangkok and candidate number one – drum roll please – Heathrow Airport.
Decommissioned airports often become home to aviation unrelated occupancies as seen for example with Hong Kong’s famous old airport Kai Tak, which at one point was being used as a concert venue. In other times such airports can become a much needed infrastructure for humanitarian relief efforts as we have seen recently in the example of Thailand’s Don Mueang International Airport.
This week three US airports caught our attention: First on Tuesday there was San Francisco’s International Airport (IATA: SFO; LD reviewed) which made headlines with the arrival of the first scheduled Airbus A380 flight. The Lufthansa plane with flight number 454 landed at the Northern Californian airport on Tuesday morning for the first time and was welcomed by a fire truck and many eager plane spotters as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
I am sure you agree that 2008 has been a very difficult eventful year. This also holds also true for the aviation industry as our selection of the top 10 news stories about airports shows:
10. London Stansted blockade
Early December environmental activists have stopped flights at London’s Stansted airport (IATA: STN) after breaking through to the runway, raising security concerns at Britain’s third-busiest airport. The protests against a further expansion of the airport caused a serious knock-on effect on the airport’s flight operations causing over 50 flights to be cancelled.
9. Opening of Beijing airport Terminal 3
On March 26, Beijing airport (IATA: PEK) opened its new Terminal 3, designed by Sir Norman Foster, after four years of construction. It is the world’s largest airport building, covering more than a million square meters, designed to accommodate an estimated 50 million passengers a year by 2020.
8. Closure of Berlin’s iconic Tempelhof airport
Open one, close one; on the October 30, Berlin’s iconic Tempelhof airport closed down for good. Originally opened in 1923, the later built airport halls and neighbouring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe and a symbol of Hitler’s “world capital” Germania. Read our full coverage here.
7. Kalitta Air crash at Brussels airport
On Sunday, 25 May a Boeing 747 cargo plane overshot the runway at Brussels Zaventem airport (IATA: BRU) and crashed resulting the aircraft to break into 2 parts. The spectacular picture made the news everywhere.
6. Frightening landing at Hamburg’s airport
A low pressure system named “Emma” nearly caused a disaster at Hamburg airport (IATA: HAM) in March. The Lufthansa A320 plane struggled to make the runway through 90 kilometre-per-hour crosswinds resulting in the 39 year old pilots last minute go-around procedure and a safe second attempt. The frightening approach was caught on camera and is an extraordinary piece which will now probably be used all over the world in pilot training classrooms.
5. Hong Kong wins ‘Airport of the Year’ award
In July Hong Kong International airport (IATA: HKG) was named best Airport in the world, in the passenger survey results released by Skytrax. Despite being “only” rated in 5th place in the most-timely airport survey, Hong Kong received the prestigious award after Skytrax collected 8.2 million questionnaires completed by passengers over a 10-month time period. Read our congratulating article here.
4. Spanair crash at Madrid airport
A combination of basic pilot error and an electrical failure was the possible cause of the crash of a Spanair plane at Madrid’s Barajas airport (IATA: MAD) on 20 August that killed 154 people. The airport was closed for several hours after the accident.
3. Radar malfunction at Dublin airport
In the midst of the summer holiday season, Dublin airport (IATA: DUB) made the news with its malfunctioning radar system which meant that controllers lost some functionality on their screens meaning they were unable to see the labels attached to ‘blips’ that signify individual aircraft. The problem resulted in massive delays and many cancellations over several days.
In March BAA, the company that owns Heathrow airport, opened its newest addition of what should have been a proud event for London’s most criticised airport. Instead, the opening resulted in a PR disaster with BAA losing thousands of bags over several months. The event then became one of the triggers leading to the demands of breaking up BAA’s monopolistic ownership of airports in the UK.
About three weeks ago, protesters supporting the People’s Alliance for Democracy stormed Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport (IATA: BKK), occupying the departure lounge and blocking all exits. With that 3,000 people were stranded within the airport and another 350,000 were stranded within Thailand. One of them, Markus, a friend of mine on holiday in Thailand. After an additional 9 days in Thailand, he finally returned last Sunday. Latedeparture.com was able to speak with him about his experience:
Tom for LateDeparture.com: When was your original flight back planned for?
Markus: Our original flight was scheduled for Friday November 28th with Emirates via Dubai to Munich. At the end we flew on Sunday December 7th with Lufthansa to Frankfurt – a short delay of nine days.
That sounds terrible, what had happened?
Three days before our original flight anti-government protestors (the yellow shirts from People’s Alliance for Democracy) took over Bangkok’s international airport. One day later they occupied Bangkok’s domestic airport too. So Bangkok was blocked from international air traffic and we were stranded in Thailand. After the Constitution Court ruled on December 2nd to disband the three ruling parties in the coalition government the protestors gave up the airport blockade and since December 6th the airport reopened for international flights.
Did you actually get stuck at the airport?
No, when we arrived in Bangkok it was impossible to go to the airport already.
How did you then spend the days waiting for your flight back?
After we realized that it will take some days to get out of Thailand (we also checked alternatives like flying form Malaysia or Singapore) we spent some relaxing days on Ko Chang Island waiting for news. When the protestors left the airport we went back to Bangkok and hoped for a reopening of the airport. The last three days we spend in a luxury hotel in Bangkok which was paid for by the Thai government. We also spent many hours waiting in the Emirates office waiting for news and searching for alternative flights. This was the most annoying part as the Emirates stuff was quite overstrained so that we got different information each day.
How did you then manage to get a flight back home?
As Emirates was one of the few airlines which didn’t operate from alternative airports and which didn’t send extra planes during the blockade (e.g. Lufthansa operated their Bangkok flights from Phuket and Air Berlin operated from the formerly military airbase Utapao) we still had no return flight after the Bangkok airport reopened on December 5th. Emirates just told us that they will call us within the next days. So we went to the Lufthansa office and got ourselves a return flight to Frankfurt. Probably a good decision as we had the impression that only Emirates passengers were still stranded in Bangkok when we left (especially in our hotel).
Was that at least a pleasant experience on the way out? I bet the airport must have been croinwded still, right?
As most airlines had the extra flights from other airports the Bangkok airport was not crowded at all when we flew back. Also there were no other signs showing the airport was closed for more than a week when we arrived at the airport.
Did you discover anything specially great or annoying about Bangkok airport?
The Bangkok airport is quite modern with a lot of opportunities to spend some hours.
Do you think this event changed how the airport operates?
I think this event won’t have any influence on the way the airport operates but the event will have a big influence on tourism in Thailand next year.