Flying to the Finals

The logistics of coordinating a major footballing championship.

By Rory Graham, Airport Slot Coordinator

At Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) we are well practiced coordinating a special event, having coordinated flights to the Commonwealth Games, Olympics, and previous footballing championships amongst others. The past 18-months, however, we have been left waiting; as large-scale events have been understandably quiet.

From a flying perspective, many might have thought that the delayed Euros tournament would have been a non-event. For the group stage at least, they might have been right. With the pandemic still dictating how the tournament played out, the group stages were comparatively quiet. From a planning perspective, however, there has been a lot bubbling away in the background. ACL have been heavily involved with Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and Eurocontrol since Euro 2020 (attempt #1).  With a lot of the groundwork successfully explored back in November 2019. Having ‘downed tools’ whilst UEFA considered their next steps, fast-forward 18-months and ACL were back to an all systems go approach, with scenarios involving 0 fans, 50% capacity fixtures and full stadiums.

At the 16-day knockout stage, things started to pick up. With a noticeable increase in General Aviation and Business Aviation (GABA) demand into some of the fully coordinated Level 3 London airports. London saw an uplift in GABA traffic from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Spain, totalling approximately 471 movements. London Luton Airport (LTN) saw the majority of this with 347 GABA movements. London Stansted Airport came in second with 108 movements and the remainder was shared across London Gatwick (LGW), London City and London Heathrow Airports. It is difficult to know the exact percentage of flights affiliated to the Euros, but we can assume there was not an uplift in specific country destinations for no reason!

Comparatively, additional fan charter traffic in and out of the UK was almost non-existent. ACL’s focus was team and match affiliated charter permissions for the UK based fixtures. Forty-eight charters encompassing players, officiating referees, national press, dignitaries, VIPs (Royal Family), team family members and other Persons of National Associations had to get in and out of airports. This is not a huge amount of flying, but the logistical intricacies around accommodating these flights in the best possible way, and in the midst of a pandemic, takes a lot of forward planning.

Thanks goes to Luton Council who approved LTN’s request to dispense flights from their noise condition assessment. Had this not been granted, then the transportation of teams and affiliated traffic could have ended up considerably more complex.

LGW ended up with the most important task of the Euros, accommodating the 540 travelling Italy contingent for the Final. It involved probably the fastest whistle-stop tour of London an Italian has ever encountered. From an operational perspective, it was certainly no mean feat but was executed admirably.

We cannot help but feel a little saddened for UEFA and the footballing community that they were unable to fill all their European host nations stadiums to capacity. Considering Europe are not out of the woods with the virus; however, they did an impressive job getting to the capacities they did!

A final thanks goes to both UEFA and Eurocontrol for their continued support throughout the tournament and to helping cement working relationships for future special events and other projects.

If you would like to know more about how ACL can support special event coordination at your airport, please get in touch or visit our special event coordination page to find out more.

Copyright © ACL Airport Coordination Limited Ltd. All rights reserved.
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