Discussing Airport Development on a general and global scale lately with some renowned influencers in this industry, there were some thoughts, I would like to share today.
Who’s the Customer?
It was rather fascinating to discuss the “customer” issue with airports recently. Though despite we all know that we compete about the passengers, the airline is just as much a customer of the airport as are ground handling companies. As we published in our case study on Zurich’s new deicing management, one of the main cost savings factors, reflecting millions of savings (Euro, Dollar, …) comes from reduction of delay, faster recovery from overall delays or disruptions. With passengers and airlines alike benefiting from “pre-tactical” information.
Keeping the Status Quo
or why only the dead fish swims with the stream? There is a great tendency in our industry today to wait and see “others” and especially “the big ones” to invest in new technologies and try them. And only with many years of delays implement the investment into the own budget plans and maybe get it year(s) later. Be that the use of (free) WiFi at the airports for all customers or CDM developments to the benefit of airport operations – especially under adverse conditions.
Saving, no matter the cost
A common argument against the investment is that the status quo functions. Airlines are i.e. “used” to have major delays during and after winter events. The throughput is lower, flights must be cancelled, after disruptions, the recovery takes time. Zurich having saved +20 million Euros in one season alone by “managed” deicing is a good counter example. With other airports/airlines stalling the implementation of the tool for their airports/terminals “for cost reasons”. Sorry, I will never get used to burning the amounts of money our industry does. We invest into “customer experience” but don’t bother about reducing flight delays.
Collaboration vs. Silo
The global Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) and the Airports Council International have declared Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) a management matter, joining forces in the promotion of the concept. Now airports and airlines alike keep pointing out that they have no common data. A major U.S. airport disqualifying it with the example that they don’t even get an Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) or Departure (ETD) from their airlines. They learn of arrivals or departures once the aircraft is on approach or on engine start-up or pushback – thanks to kind information by the tower. The operator of a terminal at one major hub tells us, collaboration won’t work at their airport as the terminal operators strongly competing. Yes, there are workarounds possible (considering the controlled apron/tarmac area “the airport”), but as long as airlines and ground handlers keep up such self-understanding, we are a long way from “effective operations” or even a basic management of delays, disruptions and recovery.
In the discussion, we also talked about airport strategy. New airports are being build without giving consideration to A-CDM or TAMS (Total Airport Management, expanding A-CDM into the land side), but focusing on fancy design. (New) Nordic airports having trouble with the positioning of their deicing pads (also called “Central Deicing Facilities” or CDFs). Space for an “Airport Operations Control Center” (APOC) being later taken from existing office space, instead of pre-planning the necessity. Airport Operators like Avialliance, Vinci or even Fraport (a CDM-airport) focus on CDM locally, instead of considering solutions that improve the airport group. Just some thoughts on the issue as we discussed it and I joggled down my notes…
Food for Thought