Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe commenced their latest service from Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) today with staff celebrating the airline’s inaugural flight to the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Varna.
Management and staff at Liverpool John Lennon Airport are gearing up for what will be the Airport’s busiest 48 hour period ever as over 13,500 Liverpool fans start their journey to Athens ahead of the Champions League Final – in addition to the normal busy May passenger traffic.
Codenamed ‘Operation Zorba’ by Airport Management, plans were first being drawn up ahead of the semi-final 2nd leg at Anfield and following Liverpool FC’s success these are now starting to be implemented.
To date, the Airport expects to handle an additional 57 charter flights to Athens over the period Monday 21st to Wednesday 23rd May with around 8,000 fans expected to depart on 37 flights on the morning of the match. This represents a considerable increase in the numbers of fans leaving from John Lennon Airport when compared to the exodus of fans to Istanbul two years ago, when 10,000 fans set off on 40 flights.
In order to accommodate this dramatic increase in passengers and aircraft the Airport Company is bringing in additional equipment and staff. The main highlights being:
• The hiring of a number of large marquees to set up additional check-in, refreshment and toilet facilities, located in what would normally be the car hire area adjacent to the terminal.
• 20 extra check-in desks to be located in the marquees.
• 8 extra check-in desks to be located adjacent to the ‘Arrivals’ area in the terminal building.
• 5 additional sets of security screening equipment.
• Additional staff to be brought in from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports as well as other Peel Airports.
• 5 additional coaches to transfer passengers to and from aircraft
In addition, Arriva who operate a number of services to LJLA from across the region intend to operate many services throughout the night to assist passenger and staff access, with the majority of the flights due to depart in the early hours of the morning.
The list of Operators expected to carry the fans reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ list of European Airlines, with a range of aircraft types to be used including three Boeing 747 ‘Jumbo jets’ each carrying 580 supporters.
The Airport is however keen to remind fans travelling to Athens to bear in mind the strict security measures that continue to remain in place at all UK airports and where possible minimise belongings that they wish to take with them. In particular fans travelling on the day of the game will not be allowed to check-in luggage.
Restrictions remain in place surrounding the type and amount of liquids that individuals are allowed to take through the security area and the Airport strongly recommends that fans familiarise themselves with these latest restrictions before setting off for the Airport. Information advising passengers of the current restrictions are available on the Airport’s website: www.liverpoolairport.com
Airport Director Andy Gower commented, “Over the years, management and staff at LJLA have gained a lot of experience in handling large volumes of football fans and in particular two years ago. This operation is of course bigger than ever and will bring even greater challenges. We are confident however that forward planning and the attention to detail that is currently being considered will pay off.
Once again we will be asking that fans allow plenty of time for their journey through the Airport and are patient and co-operative during what will be the busiest time in the Airport’s history. We aim to replicate the fantastic carnival atmosphere that accompanied the departure of so many fans last time, to help supporters get their latest European adventure off to a great start.”
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