Following the pandemic, airports are now well on the way to recovery. As flight demand increases and the industry starts to pick up pace again, are you confident your airport is ready? Here, we take a look at the top three priority areas where data analytics are helping to plan demand and model capacity.
Building back employment
Building back employment and building back knowledge following the pandemic is already proving to be the toughest challenge.
This is directly impacting airport capacity particularly at ‘peak hour’. Challenges with staff resources make it more important than ever to understand the service level weak spots in the system and quickly plan and manage solutions. Data analytics is essential to this understanding and can help manage staff resources more effectively.
During the building back employment phase, less experienced staff might be working at a lower level of efficiency. So although someone is in post they might not be achieving normal levels of productivity and situations can quickly bottleneck. In the early phases of building back, teaming experienced staff with less experienced staff might be a solution or redesigning the job role to work to an individual’s level. Skill fade is also an issue that needs to be considered. Efficiency will clearly come back with time, but not in the early phases. It is vital that stakeholders help maintain competencies and address any skill fade.
Recruiting effectively is crucial, as is induction and training to get people onboarded as soon as possible.
The regulatory environment is also proving a challenge to building back. COVID-19 continues to be a diminishing factor but staff members continue to contract it and isolate, so there is also the complexity of travel to restricted destinations. Demand is still very unpredictable as Governments continue to change their travel regulations according to their country’s situation.
The airport and airlines must communicate effectively with passengers before they arrive at the airport. For example, as of May 2022, some passengers have taken the UK Government arrival policy that a COVID Vaccination Certificate is no longer required as official departure advice for travel to all destinations, yet they may be flying to a country that still requires one. The delays at check-in can still be significant and can lead to a high number of passengers being unable to check-in.
Regulation will constantly change due to the after-effects of the pandemic, for example, as of May 2022 China has some cities open and others locked down, and the various travel restrictions in place inevitably result in confusion and delays. Passengers on multi-stop journeys can find it difficult to locate a reliable source of information for their trip, there are often multiple sources with conflicting and confusing information.
Processing of Visas or COVID documentation has to be planned into the capacity forecasts for the airport. More staff and more check-in desks may be needed. The effect of the COVID clean procedures on aircraft turnround times are easing but are still a constraint.
The impact of regulation on capacity must be understood. Whereas capacity assessments in the past might have been updated annually, many airports have been forced to undertake continuous, rolling capacity surveys. Transaction times continue to be variable across the airport affecting capacity. The assessment of capacity is more complex than ever and has to take into consideration the impact of regulatory requirements and changes in regulation and documentation required at short notice.
The impact of regulation at Hub airports is particularly acute. The first leg of the flight may have no restrictions, but the transit passengers may have to show documentation for the onward journey. This means they cannot use automated check-in. While a direct single leg passenger may take minutes to check-in a transit passenger may take tens of minutes.
Clearly regulation and service levels also have an impact on demand. The sight of queues and chaos at an airport does not encourage passengers to fly. The airport has to plan and manage for summer at a service level not previously seen. Data analytics is an essential tool and more important than ever.
The use of automation was halted at the start of the pandemic due to the risk of passing on the virus. Pre-COVID the current generation of automation required passengers to interact with equipment at the airport, the desire for the ‘touchless’ journey had not been achieved. Post-COVID, while infection issues have been reduced airports and airlines will still need to accelerate the adoption of ‘touchless’ technologies.
During COVID governments increased regulation but documentation checks were not built into the automation process. A person still had to check the documentation at a desk, increasing wait times. At low demand the capacity held up but as build back continues capacity will be put under increasing pressure. The flexibility to include this type of documentation will need to be built into future automation solutions.
Re-starting automation is also a way of dealing with employment issues and is a way to deliver touchless travel throughout the airport. It must be implemented to drive up efficiency and generate the increased capacity needed.
However, capacity always lags demand and automation only provides a solution in the medium term. Airports have a pressing requirement to plan their demand and model their capacity and make the investment decisions for automation such as CUSS (Common Use Self Service) and CUPPS (Common Use Passenger Processing Systems) and airline and airport apps.
The ‘holy grail’ is to upstream automation for the entire airport journey of the passenger, through interactive technology. Ideally, the following experiences will be managed and organised before a passenger arrives at the airport:
- Security and border control
- Food and beverage
At AiQ, our award winning team of operational and analytical experts are dedicated to analysing, modelling and optimising every aspect of an airport. Specialising in airport capacity, we are trusted to realise capacity and solve complex operational challenges. Read some of our testimonials.
For more information about how we can assist your capacity challenges in 2022, contact us today.