East Midlands Airport get £12m extension
THE past year has seen significant changes in the services offered from East Midlands Airport, with the departures of BMIbaby and new flights being operated by airlines such as Flybe and Monarch.
But now the physical fabric of the airport itself is to get a makeover that is set to have even more of a long-term impact on travellers.
Work will start in the new year on enlarging and improving arrangements for passenger security after check-in and making the shopping area bigger.
It is the first significant improvement to passenger facilities since the departures area was enlarged nearly ten years ago to cope with the sudden growth in low-cost airlines such as BMIbaby, Easyjet and Ryanair.
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There will be extra costs associated with fitting out new shops, bars and restaurants. Tenants will be announced in January.
The 14,000 sq ft extension will be constructed between the departures building and the arrivals area.
It will house a much enlarged "duty free" area for shopping. A new lounge for the business traveller is also being created.
General manager Tim McDermott said: "We want to focus on the passenger experience.
"We all know that getting security screened is not the most enjoyable part of the holiday process."
The expansion is shaped by the limitations of the original 1960s core terminal, which used a system of construction designed for coalfields so the building could withstand movements in the earth's surface caused by mining subsidence.
The original terminal building, constructed on the CLASP system, means there are regular columns restricting views and functions.
There have been add-on buildings over a period of time built on a different system to add capacity.
"It is quite cumbersome for our staff," said Mr McDermott.
"This purpose-built facility will increase the security processing rate per hour from around 100 to 120 per hour to around 190 people per hour using 15.5-metre-length benches.
"It will speed up the process by allowing three people to unload their possessions at a time."
The rate of travel of trays through X-ray scanning slows the process down.
"Now it is the amount of stuff people have with them – handbags, hand luggage, lap tops – so the length of the bench increases the through-put per hour.
"The ideal is three people unloading and loading at once."
The bigger "duty free" area will allow more retailers to open shops, restaurants and bars.
Negotiation with operators are under way.
A brand new terminal would cost as much as £100m and the airport's owner, Manchester airport Group, believes that current income would not support that investment.
The extension will be constructed over roads in front of the terminal which will be realigned with a new traffic flow running in the opposite direction. Passengers will be able to get out of vehicles without having to cross a road to enter departures.
"This project is a balance of what will improve the experience for passengers with what is affordable," said Mr McDermott.
"Yes, we would all like to start again (with a new terminal) but that comes with a big bill. "
Planning consent was granted last week and construction will start shortly.
Among the improvements will be the creation of a bigger undercover area "airside" so that passengers can keep dry while waiting to enter passport control.
Currently, the arrival of two full planes can mean passengers waiting in the open without shelter.
In an exclusive interview, Manchester Airport Group chairman Mike Davies told the Post that he expected the airport authorities to take a further look at the arrivals area.
He said his group was committed to finding investment in the airport and what it earned was ploughed back into it.
The runway is expected to get a £20m resurfacing in the near future.
Earlier this year, EMA lost BMIbaby flights following the acquisition of its parent, BMI, by British Airways from Lufthansa.
BMI Regional, under new ownership, has continued flights to Brussels and Frankfurt.
The airport has also acquired new airlines such as Flybe, Jet2 and Monarch which bosses believe go some way to filling the gap left by BMIbaby and BMI.
Mr Davies said it was important that the airport management fully understood its catchment area, the latent demand and potential.
The airport has struggled to shake off its bucket-and-spade image, that it is used by holidaymakers rather than business travellers.
BMI developed a network used by business travellers that was essentially taken over by BMIbaby. Business travellers particularly demand a code-share agreement when they travel from EMA via a European hub such as Brussels, Frankfurt, Schipol or Paris so luggage was taken care of by onward airlines without the need to recheck it.
Air France-KLM recently announced a twice-daily Flybe service to Paris Charles de Gaulle to join onward flights using a code-share.
"We need to build on these airlines," said Mr McDermott.
"The arrival of Monarch Airlines at EMA has already proved popular."
Mr Davies has made many trips to China in an effort to encourage it to use his group's airports.
Chinese airlines are currently concentrating on what he called Tier One international cities such as London, followed by Tier Two of which Manchester is the only one in the UK. Tier Three would include regional airports such as EMA.
Mr Davies said that the debate in preparation for such routes had to start now, although planning in terms of the Chinese was longer term.
He said planning would be influenced by Boeing's Dreamliner 787, which could make long-haul journeys with passenger numbers of around 235 using 20 per cent less fuel than the Boeing 767.
Mr Davies said flights by Chinese airlines to the UK could only happen in numbers if the UK Government eased visa requirements.
Chinese airlines were more likely to fly to places such as Paris than the UK because of the difficulties, he said.
He urged business leaders to make the point to the prime minister and senior politicians that visa requirements needed to be easier.