Over a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, several businesses have been forced to review their practices and operations. Transforming into a more proactive airport management in accordance with the ACI “Ground Coordinator” concept is one of the key measures that airports are currently undertaking to support business resilience during crisis recovery and beyond.
Establishing the means for airports to stay in control of their operations, supported and enabled by a strong collaboration and communication with their operational partners, is important to navigate through these unprecedented times in the history of aviation.
Towards a more proactive decision making process
Due to the crisis, airport priorities are changing towards a stronger focus on digitization rather than physical infrastructure expansion. The capability of using what-if scenario planning for collaborative decision-making based on agreed performance targets is more and more applied to avoid risks of not being operationally ready during a rapidly evolving situation and to enable a more cost-efficient and stable operations in the future.
In Europe, airports are addressing these new requirements through the implementation of an Airport Operations Plan (AOP) and their recent adoption of the Common Project One (CP1) regulation. The AOP represents a single, common, and collaborative agreed upon rolling plan, which provides situational awareness for optimized processes. With the purpose of monitoring and managing airport performance, it also comprises AOP management tools, such as the Demand Capacity Balancer (DCB) solution successfully deployed at London Heathrow Airport in partnership with NATS. The opportunity to implement Target Times of Arrivals (TTA) enables airports to participate more actively in network management to influence arrivals (versus a former passive role), resulting in significant benefits for airport resource management, flight connectivity, and passenger experience.
With an AOP, the local Airport Operations Center (APOC) benefits from the most up-to-date demand and capacity predictions to support critical decision-making. For example, the current lack of decision making ahead of a tactical timeframe is a problem shared by many airports across Europe, which can be addressed by the AOP. It allows the replacement of operating plans built form traditional schedules to be replaced by a rolling plan that extends Airport CDM time horizon and provides insight on traffic demand at its peak times.
Being able to model (what if) and influence (TTA) traffic volumes, enables an augmented plan that better represents demand and capacity. Despite unstable schedules and increased aircraft rotations, it allows for determining which infrastructure and resource are required, ensuring for the best planned and optimized operations.
Focus areas moving forward
Meeting severe challenges on almost every front will continue to require the best of the industry which include:
New capacity hotspots: Airports will require more dynamic predictions of passenger flows and, for this purpose, especially of aircraft´s on- and off-block times.
Meeting performance targets: Collaboration with other stakeholders, such as airlines and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs).
Manage demand and capacities “outside in” (i.e. from airside to landside) in regards to their impact onto the Airport Operations Plan (AOP) and ultimately the passenger experience.
Technology that supports collaboration is dependent on the implementation of Airport Operations Centers (APOCs), bringing together decision makers to create a resilient plan. This is essential for the full restart and recovery of our industry when traffic volumes reach an ultimate high and airports are met with adapting to a new wave of expectations.