Let’s start with some good news and let us congratulate Vancouver Airport (IATA: YVR) as the Canadian airport celebrated its 80th birthday this week. According to the Vancouver Sun, it drew delegations from airports around the world to admire its public art and West Coast decoration.
Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams return to make a new US television appearance in their airport “mockumentary”, Come Fly With Me on BBC America. The new series starting this Saturday features the duo as they play almost 50 characters found in a fictional airport terminal. A few weeks back we wrote an article about the show being mostly filmed at Stansted airport (IATA: STN; LD reviewed), 48km (30mi) outside of London.
It’s no secret, LateDeparture has always had a love-hate-relationship with the UK’s third busiest airport. Whilst the airport itself is quite alright, it can feel crowded plus the pure nature of mainly operating low cost carrier can add to the airports stress level (as reviewed a while back). Now, however, the airport presents itself in an entirely different light. And it’s not because of the UK Competition Commission’s turnaround of allowing BAA keep owning the airport, it’s a different story: the actors from the controversial but highly acclaimed comedy show, Little Britain, Matt Lucas and David Walliams launched a spoof of British documentaries Airport and Airline. The series officially started in Britain on Christmas day last year and follows the activity at a fictional airport and three airlines: FlyLo (a low-cost airline), Our Lady Air (an Irish low-cost airline) and Great British Air (a major international British airline).
With Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding only days away, we thought it’s timely to look closer at Britain’s capital airports in order to find out whether these London airports are actually living up to the (new) royal standards. Plus, is there even such a thing as a royal airport? The answer to the latter question is yes and no. Actually more no than yes. A ‘yes’, because for shorter flights the Queen and the rest of the British Royal Family use RAF Northolt (IATA: NHT), a Royal Air Force station approximately 10 km north of London Heathrow Airport (IATA: LHR). From there they use BAe 146 or HS125 aircraft from ‘No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron’ when available according to the Monarchy’s official website. More no, because in order to save costs the British Royal Family is encouraged to use commercially scheduled flights. This they do mostly out of Heathrow as their royal travel grant-in-aid documents reveal (see for yourself here).
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.
2. Bangkok blockade
Protesters supporting the People’s Alliance for Democracy stormed Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport (IATA: BKK) in late November, 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. Read our interview with an affected traveller.
1. Chaos at London Heathrow’s new Terminal 5
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.
On Friday I returned to the airport where I had the initial idea for this blog: London Stansted Airport (IATA: STN). Last time I wasn’t very lucky when my Friday evening flight to Copenhagen was delayed by over an hour and on the way back I went through an even bigger pain (see my very first post).
This time my fate changed for the better. On the way out to Düsseldorf Weeze (IATA: NRN) we were only slightly delayed because of some minor baggage and cargo loading problems. Luckily Ryanair was able to make up the delay and we arrived with the usual punctuality fanfare at the Lower Rhine (Niederrhein) airport.
So I guess, I have to admit that Stansted usually is quite a nice airport. It’s certainly not that close from London (it takes 45 minutes from Liverpool Street station) and it costs a staggering £26 return, but once you are there it’s quite pleasant. The terminal is big and roomy, there are lots of good shops (e.g. Reiss) and plenty of eateries and coffee shops. No wonder is Ryanair eying to purchase this airport once it will be split off from the current owner BAA.
But let’s get to the fun part. This time I decided to play a little game: I wanted to find the best and worst looking, women’s perfume flacon at the large duty free store. Here’s my decision:
The Winner: Valentino – Rock ‘n Rose
The Loser: Anna Sui – Dolly Girl
|Airport Name||London Stansted|
|£28.25 (incl. ice jacket)|
Ryanair seems to be interested in taking over London Stansted airport (IATA: STN) according to a news article published in the Daily Telegraph today:
Michael O’Leary is interested in launching a £2bn bid for Stansted airport and proving to BAA and the regulators that he can run it much better than they can.
The current owner, BAA, has recently become under increasing pressure to break up its monopolistic ownership over the three busiest airports in London, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted after continuously failing to improve their performance. However, having Ryanair running an airport would raise other concerns: Would they make travellers pay for every little additional thing as they do with their flights? At least this discussion adds to some movement in the BAA question and that’s always welcomed.
[Picture from Flickr]