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Special Report - Eastern Europe - 2012 Beckons…

Special Report - Eastern Europe

The 2012 soccer European Championships have instigated a rush of infrastructure development in the host nations, Poland and Ukraine.

While the sporting authorities are still sweating on the readiness of the various stadiums being used, airport development in Poland is largely on schedule.

Warsaw will see a huge influx of travelers. UEFA, the governing body for European soccer, has stipulated that the Polish capital’s hub, Frederic Chopin Airport, must be able to handle at least 29,000 passengers in the 10 hours prior to a match kick-off and a similar number in the 10 hours after the match has finished.

Various special procedures will be implemented to handle the fans. Plans are in place to streamline operations, particularly at check-in and security checkpoints, for example. Passenger flow is also being studied to ensure optimal efficiency and that rival fans aren’t manoeuvred into the same area of the airport. Efforts to put in train links by the start of the championship look like falling short, however.

The new pier and resurfacing work at Warsaw isn’t the only upgrade in Poland. Among a host of development projects, Gdansk Lech Walesea Airport is busy extending its aprons to accommodate more aircraft. A former army airbase in Modlin will also be renovated in time for the event and handle mainly low-cost and charter flights.

Ukraine has more to gain from any residual tourism trade, being less developed in that regard than Poland. Ukraine is a large country, home to 45 million people with a prodigious agricultural output. Some observers have noted its close ties to Russia and dependency on its neighbor for energy has limited its economic potential to date, but Euro 2012 could change that. Already, traffic is up 28% on 2010.

Issues remain, however. Some airport projects, such as the new international terminal at Kiev’s Zhulyany Airport, still have some way to go before completion. Lviv is also building a new facility for international travelers that will push its passenger processing ability from 300 people per hour to 1,900 in line with requirements. In the east of the country, Kharkov boasts an entirely new international airport. However, IATA wasn’t allowed to consult on any of these projects and there are reservations about the quality of customer service, especially regarding self-service.

Meanwhile, air traffic control charges continue to rise. IATA has raised objections through Eurocontrol, noting non-compliance with ICAO policies. Pre-financing to ready the country for Euro 2012 has put unit rates up 14.5%.

“We encourage the Ukrainian Government to use IATA’s unique experience to review and resolve the problems with airport or air traffic management infrastructure,” says Rafael Schvartzman, IATA Regional Vice President for Europe.

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