Harrods buffers immigration woes for pax, crew at Luton

 - October 14, 2009, 6:48 AM

Harrods Aviation has made special arrangements with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for business aircraft passengers and crew to be able to complete immigration procedures at its London Luton Airport FBO. The service, for which the company is paying, follows a UKBA decision earlier this year not to continue the practice of allowing business aircraft operators to use the pre-clearance procedure, which avoided the inconvenience of having passports checked in the main airport terminal.

The UK business aviation services group claims to be the only Luton FBO to provide this service, which is available between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. UKBA staff are already available on site at Harrods’s other London-area FBO at Stansted Airport.

According to the Border Agency, the new policy of not routinely making staff available to clear business aircraft at FBOs is supposed to be applied at all airports in the London area. However, research by NBAA Convention News makes it clear that this is not the case and that the agency’s staff at Luton have been enforcing the policy more rigidly. Pre-clearance had allowed FBOs simply to send the UKBA details of passengers and crew aboard an arriving aircraft, and the agency would then decide whether or not it needs to check passports in person, in which case it could be done on the aircraft or in an FBO.

Traffic levels at Luton have been lower this year and the airport generally receives smaller business aircraft than Stansted. However, according to Harrods, “the business model is changing in our favor, because although aircraft movements are lower, parking for longer periods is now commonplace.”

Harrods (Booth No. 2223) has reported traffic levels recovering in recent months at Stansted, mainly from operations by privately operated aircraft since charter activity has yet to recover fully. One key indicator was that, over the summer, traffic from Middle Eastern operators was at a level similar to recent years and it has seen a higher proportion of larger aircraft to bolster income. Demand for aircraft maintenance and overhaul work has also been strong, in part due to the strength of the euro against the British pound which makes UK maintenance services more competitive.

“We are ensuring we remain competitive in these more challenging times by providing our travelers with a superior travel experience,” a Harrods spokesperson told NBAA Convention News. “Investment in customer hospitality areas at the site has been a key focus, and our redevelopment program saw an upgrade of the executive lounge in December, and a new lounge is also scheduled. We have invested in staff training programs to keep customer service levels at an optimum.”
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