More modern, more efficient, and more responsible: Nice Côte d’Azur airport ends an unprecedented year with its focus set firmly on the future

Published on 07-01-21

Despite a net drop in passenger traffic of 68.4%, Nice Côte d’Azur Airport comes out fighting from this unprecedented year. Its modernisation works, the implementation of new activity management systems, the efficient structuring of a health protection policy deemed exemplary, and the upholding of its environmental commitments help make it, in line with its objectives, an airport of the future: safer, more secure and more efficient.

As we assess what was a particularly unusual year, three words sum up the actions undertaken by Nice Côte d’Azur Airport: adaptation, preparations and commitment. Three words which will notably have enabled the return of Terminal 1 to service in record time to support the rescue efforts for those affected by Storm Alex in the valleys above Nice.

For Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, 2020 will not be a year to forget, but recognised as a defining year, as it enabled the airport to entirely project itself into the future, by delineating what the airport of tomorrow should be: an ultra-efficient airport, entirely safe from a public health perspective, and actively engaged in reducing environmental disturbance,” summarises Franck Goldnadel, Chairman of the Board of Aéroports de la Côte d'Azur since 21 September 2020.

Whilst nobody could have foreseen the pandemic and the historic fall in air travel, the airport's teams have shown their agility in responding to the new requirements. From the month of March, a wide range of measures have been deployed in response to the pandemic, following the recommendations of the various health authorities (the French High Council for Public Health (HCSP) and Ministry of Health) and in line with the work carried out with industry organisations (ACI Europe, the UAF federation of French airports). In addition to the implementation of the various preventive measures (increased cleaning, social distancing, providing hand sanitiser, installing air and surface purifiers, replacing air filters with models to improve treatment quality by 50%, etc.), the airport has established facilities allowing for PCR and antigen tests to be carried out. All of these measures, welcomed by the French Minister of Transport, have enabled the airport to rank amongst the most responsible in terms of health protection, and to make a commitment with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to lead the way in applying the recommended measures and to delineate the airport of the future in terms of health protection for passengers and staff.

An even better-performing airport

In terms of advance preparations, airport teams have brought various projects to completion in order to enable more precise and higher-performance management of all of their operations. This is why, on 11 September, Eurocontrol issued A-CDM (Airport Collaborative Decision Making) certification. Thanks to this new organisation approach, all of the airport’s partners now have shared tools, and share the data required for optimal coordination and faster operational decision making in real time. In concrete terms, it enables the airport to streamline its day-to-day operations, whilst also minimising its environmental impact, fulfilling the requirement that future air travel marry economic and ecological performance.
In the same line of thinking, on 1 December, the airport opened its APOC (Airport Operations Center). The APOC is the most effective and advanced collaborative means of airport operations management, making it possible to both optimise resources and support the development of air traffic, but also take into account all the factors which may disrupt the airport's traffic. This enormous control station makes it possible, in real time, to exchange information, determine the most relevant solutions, initiate their implementation and verify their effects on all terminals, runways and airport surroundings. This “alternative control tower” is a shared tool, as it is available to all airport agents/partners. The gains expected range from better punctuality to smoother passenger flows with, as a common thread, improved safety, especially in terms of increased health protection.

An environmental policy aiming for ever-higher standards

No operator, in any sector, can plan to continue their activities tomorrow if they are not sincerely and completely committed to a policy to reduce their environmental impacts. Nice Côte d'Azur Airport has been a pioneer for over 10 years, but its conviction continues, and 2020 was the opportunity to continue its efforts and plan for the coming decades,” sees Franck Goldnadel.

Whilst the effects of the pandemic could have pushed the airport to reduce its efforts in terms of environmental protection, to preserve its economic resources, Nice Côte d'Azur Airport instead chose to maintain its lead and to update its investments in this domain. After having presented their action programme in January 2020, with the goal of becoming a zero-emission airport within 10 years, the airport undertook measures, without straying from their aims. This culminated in mid-autumn with it signing the first ever agreement between an airport operator, local authorities and the French National Forests Office (ONF). It enabled the creation of the carbon sinks required to absorb its residual emissions as close as possible to its runways (i.e. within a 50-kilometre radius) corresponding to the LTO (landing, take-off and climb) cycle. This unprecedented agreement committed Nice Côte d'Azur to financing the purchasing of trees, as well as their annual maintenance, until at least 2030. In concrete terms, 2.6 hectares are currently being reforested around the village of Carros, which was struck by a violent forest fire in 2017, impacting 2,080 trees. In the vicinity of Saint-Césaire-sur-Siagne, 500 plants are being planted across half a hectare.
Overall, this operation represents a budget of €70,000, which will increase to €100,000 per year by 2021, excluding maintenance costs, increasing accordingly each year, which will also be covered by the airport operator. According to the Group’s investment schedule, over the next 10 years, it may contribute to the reforestation of over 80% of the municipal forest area in the Alpes-Maritimes department. The volume of trees planted has allowed for the absorption of approximately 300 tons of CO2 equivalent, matching the airport's 2030 residual emissions.

A sharp drop in air traffic levels

While 2020 was a productive year for developing the airport of tomorrow, it saw an unprecedented drop in aviation activity.

  • Commercial aviation traffic recorded a 68.4% reduction, to 4.58 million passengers.
  • For general aviation, the figure was a 31.7% reduction in the number of aircraft movements, to 23,650.

This decrease in activity is significant, but despite everything, it ought to be put into perspective, as it is less notable than the decrease suffered in most other major French or European airports. This demonstrates the resilience and relevance of our model favouring direct links, which are still mostly European and therefore less impacted by inter-continental border closures, which have a significant effect on long-haul traffic. However, we remain confident for the resumption of activity, as the underpinning qualities of our region, which remains particularly attractive, are strong,” specifies Franck Goldnadel.