European FBOs Deal With Covid Crisis

 - May 11, 2020, 9:14 AM
Disinfection of the Milano Prime business aviation terminal at Milan's Malpensa Airport has become a regular occurrence in the Covid-19 era. The region was an early epicenter for the disease and has been subject to travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. Like many airport and FBO operators, SEA Prime, which also manages the city's Linate Airport, has embraced the latest in sanitary and hygiene guidance.

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.


While the Covid-19 virus has a global reach, some areas have been more heavily affected than others. Before the extensive spread of the disease to the U.S., Milan, Italy, was a major epicenter. Reports say that while the Lombardy region passed its peak for the pandemic around the beginning of April, the disease stubbornly persisted, slowing the return to some semblance of normalcy.

For SEA Prime, the company that manages the city’s Malpensa and Linate Airports as well as their modern Milano Prime FBOs, 2020 began well. But the Lombardy area, which among all of Italy has the highest contact with China where the pandemic began, soon found itself in crisis starting in mid to late February. As travel restrictions were imposed at the Italian, European and global levels, air traffic levels in its capital Milan fell. According to SEA Prime CEO Chiara Dorigotti, Linate was open to handle only essential state, sanitary, and emergency flights as well as for aircraft requiring maintenance. Malpensa remained available 24/7 for passenger flights, the only airport in the Northwest part of the country so authorized. Operational levels have fluctuated, reaching a year-on-year decrease of 85 percent in mid-April.

Like most service providers, the company has taken steps to protect its staff and customers. These efforts have included deep cleaning and treatment of its terminals with sodium hypochlorite solution, minimizing staff in the facilities through work-at-home policies, using personal protection equipment for staff who are onsite, enforcing social distancing, and installing sanitizing gel dispensers throughout the facilities.

Before beginning their shift, staff members undergo a temperature check, and those with even a slight fever are not allowed to enter the facility. SEA Prime has asked all of its ground handler tenants and suppliers to adhere to the same protocols. Handlers have limited access to passenger lounges.

“As a group, we have also provided all employees with a specific Covid-19 insurance policy to cover them in need of care or hospitalization,” Dorigotti told AIN.

FBOs physically separated from airport commercial terminals such as at Milano Prime are in a better position to control their security and health monitoring, she said. “The attention is very high, and we feel we are well-positioned to be the first to start when travel restrictions are lifted.”

At London-area Farnborough Airport, one of Europe’s premier business aviation gateways, April’s movements decreased by 85 percent year-over-year, from more than 2,000 operations to 300.

“The current circumstances are certainly challenging for everyone in business," Farnborough CEO Brandon O’Reilly told AIN, adding the airport continues to fulfill its role in connecting companies to the world. “More than ever during these extraordinary times, our focus is to continue providing the highest level of service and an unparalleled experience that our customers expect.”

The airport has put in place a number of measures for the safety of its customers and employees, including the implementation of social distancing measures across all areas, he said, adding this has required a number of adjustments to airport processes. Passports are now systematically checked at a drive-through UK Border Force passport control facility, and passengers are asked to stay in their vehicles.

Aircraft are generally being parked as close as possible to the dedicated GA airport's three-story terminal to minimize the need to transport customers and crew by car. Even so, all of its ground vehicles have been equipped with an interior plastic shield for the protection of passengers and drivers alike and are fully cleaned and disinfected in accordance with health authority guidance. Hand sanitizer is provided throughout the airport, and its already-thorough cleaning procedures have been enhanced across the airport site, with a specific focus on the regular cleaning of hard surfaces.

Russia issued changes at the end of March to its business aviation flight coordination processes in response to the Covid-19 crisis, including the requirement of the submission of an application at least 24 hours prior to planned arrival for aircraft with a capacity of fewer than 20 seats, with full details of passengers and crew. However, aviation services provider A-Group reports its FBOs at Moscow Sheremetyevo and St. Petersburg Pulkovo International Airports are still fully operational, and the company claims the flight activity at those airports has seen a much smaller decrease than the industry average in Russia and Europe.

Under the administrative regulations on sanitary quarantine control, passengers are now required to undergo health checks upon arrival. When the requirements were introduced in Moscow, the company was prepared with quarantine control staff and doctors on duty 24/7, conducting remote temperature checks and surveying arrivals to determine whether to order self-isolation or observation.

A-Group’s terminals are equipped with sanitizer and hygiene products, informational materials, and medical masks. Rooms inside are thoroughly cleaned after each flight, while arriving luggage is also disinfected. Each member of the FBO staff undergoes a daily check-up, and their use of personal protective equipment is mandatory.

“The main tasks of our infrastructure in the current circumstances are to protect the health of passengers and staff, as well as to ensure the seamless maintenance of flights in compliance with all procedures and directives issued by [FATA], ICAO, and other industry regulators,” said A-Group president Sergey Semenov. “Business aviation in general, and our terminals in particular, allow us to provide not only passenger safety in every way but also social distancing, which plays an important role in preventing the spread of the virus.”