The destructive impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry has dramatically changed airport challenges and priorities. Therefore, operational planning has compelled to evolve as the pandemic grew. As leading innovators of holistic airport operational planning, we explore how COVID-19 has changed the basis of airport planning.
Today, airports are operating with dramatically reduced revenues, forcing them to radically cut CAPEX and OPEX. Their focus is on complex process change, operating with fluctuating demand and extraordinarily short planning horizons. To optimise resources and save costs across the entire airport, holistic operational planning is essential with the engagement of all stakeholders. This approach teamed with quick, and simple decision validation models has been a shift from airports using time-consuming complex simulation tools and stakeholders working in isolation.
We explore these changes in airport priorities and planning throughout this blog. In addition to setting out how AiQ has responded quickly, offering airports the operational expertise, planning support tools and rapid turnaround of decision data to survive and recover through the next few years of uncertainty.
COVID Impact on Airports
A year ago, the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic created the biggest crisis in history for the aviation industry. During 2020, passenger numbers plunged by 75.2% to 73.8 million passengers, levels not seen since 1985. To put this into context, this is less than a quarter of 2019’s 296.8 million passengers.
Changed Airport Priorities
Today, airports remain in survival mode, operating with minimal costs. Airport planning is complex with volatile flight demand, changeable schedules, reduced staff, different passenger behaviours and additional COVID-19 processes. Long-term growth plans are on hold. Key priorities are focussed on the now, addressing the urgent challenges and looking after staff and passenger’s well-being. The vital question is how can we stay in operation, keeping our passengers safe, understanding our service levels but with reduced resources?
This uncertainty has led the industry to the realisation that operational planning must be simplified but, on an integrated airport-wide approach, understanding the impact of regulatory and behavioural changes. They must find quick wins and cost savings, but in so doing, airports will increase the long-term efficiency of their end-to-end operation. See our previous blog on airport survival here
Innovative Kerbside to Airspace Airport Assessments
Over several years AiQ has taken a holistic approach to end-to-end analytics, winning the AOA Solution Provider 2019 award for this innovative approach. Our operational and analytical team delivers a completely integrated assessment of the whole airport operation, from baggage and passenger flows to aircraft and cargo, ground support equipment and transfer systems, providing a unique analysis of the entire airport.
This innovative assessment is delivered by our highly operational airport experts who have the knowledge to not only assess the passenger journey but work with all stakeholders behind the scenes to ensure each process of the holistic airport is optimised. Our senior airport planners have the skills to engage with complex requirements and all stakeholders including:
- Airport owners
- Airport operators
- Ground handlers
- Border control
- Product and service providers
In 2019, AiQ won the AOA Best Solution Provider award for our innovative end to end airport assessment from kerbside to airspace project at Bristol Airport, delivered with our strategic partner NATS. This project provided a holistic overview of Bristol Airport, covering the entire passenger journey, and integrated the airside and landside operations. The project demonstrated our deep operations experience and our modelling capabilities. Using big picture modelling we enabled the airport to understand the passenger challenges and make the right decisions regards future investment plans. Read more about the Bristol Airport project here
Insights for an Optimised End to End Operations
Analysing and gathering operational insights across all airport processes from kerbside to airspace creates an effective way to manage daily resource requirements and optimise the total airport operational efficiency. Using surveys and observations of every individual airport process, we provide recommendations to achieve quick wins, realise cost savings, and resolve pinch points.
This is particularly important now, during these times of changeable schedules and volatile demand. AiQ’s operational experts help airports understand the pinch points and the impact of an individual process decision on the entire passenger, baggage and cargo journeys. This knowledge is critical for airports to manage their daily resources, comply with COVID regulations, capacity plan and drive cost efficiencies across the entire airport.
“ To support our ambitious expansion plans, we instructed NATS and AiQ Consulting to assess the current and future capacity of the whole Bristol Airport operation, focusing on the experience from our passengers’ perspective. The result was an independent report that helped to validate our investment plans and identified some immediate opportunities for us to improve, and ensuring the safe and efficient growth of the operation. ”
Andrew Goodenough – Development Director, Bristol Airport
Operation certainty from live data
Fluctuating demand and process means airport managers need fast and accurate analysis across the entire airport to make smart operational decisions. Historical data is not helpful during these unprecedented times. Complex modelling tools are equally unhelpful as they are too slow to deliver meaningful data.
AiQ responded to airports changing requirements by repurposing our in-house modelling software, TransvisionAiR® to create a simple schedule-based, Airport Recovery Tool, ARTΔ. ARTΔ enables our airport planners to use flight schedules to provide a clear holistic vision of all 18 airport processors, reported in simple excel reports for fast distribution to teams. It rapidly determines passenger, baggage and cargo flows. In addition, the tool helps to optimise daily operational costs by informing of the resource and equipment needs across the entire operation for agreed levels.
Quick decisions using rapid reporting
Our reports can be rapidly generated for clients using our Airport Recovery Tool, ART Δ. It produces sufficiently accurate and reliable analysis required to make quick informed decisions on daily operations. With efficiency as a top airport priority, our cost-effective analysis enables airport managers to react quickly to sudden business changes. Within 2-5 minutes of data input, we can model the resources you need across all 18 processes included in the above case study. This high-level management decision support data will enable airports to remain resilient during airport survival and recovery.
Agility with comparison models
The agility of airports to adapt to both long-term strategic changes and short-term operational shocks is critical in sustaining their competitive advantage. Efficiently scaling up operations as travel resumes is critical for airport recovery. Using ARTΔ, our airport planners can easily compare scenario and occupancy data to plan the resources you need to deliver a safe passenger journey and an optimised holistic airport.
Filling the gaps with airport operational experts
In conclusion, with the current volatility, airports need to remain resilient and agile to efficiently operate a safe and cost-effective service for passengers. With airports dramatically reducing costs and the loss of in-house knowledge, airports may look to agile operational airport consultants such as AiQ to fill the gap between now and full recovery.
“AiQ is an integral part of the Heathrow team working collaboratively to solve challenging project requirements. With their holistic approach and excellent stakeholder management skills, AiQ’s involvement as a trusted partner helps ensure a successful outcome, time and time again.”
Darren Colderwood – Baggage Development Director, Heathrow Airport Limited
For over 20 years, AiQ Consulting has been analysing, modelling, and optimising the most complex airports worldwide. As airport operational planning experts providing intelligence and bespoke modelling software for decision making, AiQ are well placed to provide a knowledgeable service to airports and their stakeholders. Contact us for a rapid quote today.