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12 CHAPTER FOUR SOFT VERSUS HARD DATE AND SCHEDULE FOR AIRPORT TERMINAL FACILITY OPENING DAY Data collected indicate that decisions regarding whether and adequately trained and were not adequately familiar with new when to plan for a soft or hard opening date are complex and facilities, and/or plans of operation were not fully tested. One involve many issues and stakeholders. cause that was reported during interviews was a lack of trans- parent, accurate, and timely communications and reporting ˇ Agreements used to finance airports are generally based regarding the actual status of construction, commissioning, on new assets being put into use at a fixed point in time. and the readiness of the airport authority, airlines, and other Failure to comply with these agreements exposes an air- stakeholders to operate out of the new facilities. port to added financing costs and potentially to penalties. ˇ Airlines need to plan for schedule changes at least Although it is often necessary to forecast an opening date 6 months in advance of making a change so that they relatively early in the process and firm it up about 6 months can be published in the Official Airline Guide Flight before the opening, it is critical that progress in achieving it Schedule and the airline has sufficient time to start be closely monitored throughout the entire planning, design, marketing new routes and flights. construction, commissioning, and activation processes. If slip- ˇ Lease and use agreements with concessions, airlines, page is discovered early, the schedule can often be recovered and others generally start at a fixed point in time; delays by committing additional resources to the tasks that have fallen can expose an airport to penalties. behind schedule. If it is not possible to recover the schedule, ˇ Politicians and other dignitaries often participate in rib- informed decisions can be made about whether to adjust the bon cuttings that need to be scheduled months in advance. schedule or implement a fallback/recovery plan. ˇ Contractors and developers may be exposed to liquidated damages if they fail to complete work and open the facil- The opening strategy of many of the airports included in ity on time. the survey had characteristics of both fixed and soft opening dates (the opening date is always fixed before opening). An Those surveyed indicated that construction of airports is opening date is defined as fixed if the date is established rel- often delayed and that the opening day for new airport termi- atively early in the project delivery process. It is defined as nal facilities is often set too early in the planning stage of the soft if it is established later in the project delivery process facility. Additionally, the date can be concurrent with or just when state of construction completion and readiness are con- before an immovable date with little float. The result is that firmed. Table 3 identifies whether a fixed date or soft date when construction is delayed, the amount of time available approach was taken when establishing opening dates for the to activate the new facility is compressed and familiarization, projects discussed by participants in the survey. training, trials programs, etc., forced to overlap with the final stages of construction, leading to inefficiencies and poten- A decision matrix similar to that included in Table 2 can tially a compromised activation program. Therefore, instead be useful in determining whether a soft or fixed date should of discovering and resolving issues before the opening, prob- be established for an opening. lems may be publicly discovered and resolved during or post- opening. Examples of where hard links of AOD to fixed points If a soft approach is used, a process similar to the 90/60/ in time resulted in problems include: 30-day issue resolution reporting mechanism used by the Dubai Airports Company can be used to predict construction comple- ˇ Chek Lap Kok, where opening day was linked to the tion and readiness for an airport opening day. Issues were transfer of Hong Kong to China. tracked along with actual and predicted rates of resolution. As ˇ Terminal 5 at London Heathrow, where the airport opening day approached, issues were resolved by authorizing authority and airlines linked AOD to airline seasonal overtime and shift work. Where issues could not be resolved as schedule changes. originally planned, workarounds were developed, tested, and implemented so that there were no surprises on opening day. In the these examples, a decision was made to proceed with an opening at a fixed date, although construction and In Figure 4, at 120 days out (4 months before AOD), a commissioning were late and incomplete, staff had not been decision was made to accelerate the closeout of open issues by
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13 TABLE 3 SOFT VERSUS FIXED OPENING DATES Fixed or Soft Airport Opening Date Comments Athens International Airport in Fixed Airport management programmed a 6-month Greece trial period following substantial completion. So, once airport was substantially complete, AOD was "fixed" at six months later. Dallas/Fort Worth International Initially fixed 1 month prior to opening major carrier Airport then soft postponed move by 3 months owing to concerns about insufficient time to test BHS. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Fixed Date was fixed approximately 6 months prior to International Airport opening Dubai Airports Corporation Dubai Soft Dates for four phase opening were fixed at 90 days out and confirmed at 60 and 30. Hong Kong International Airport-- Fixed 12 Since opening of CLK, opening dates are not Chek Lap Kok (CLK), Terminal months prior to fixed more than 2 months prior to opening. 2 and other new facilities. opening of CLK Indianapolis International Airport Fixed Fixed 2 months prior to opening jetBlue Airways Terminal 5 at JFK Soft Opening was delayed by ~3 weeks owing to in New York delay in completion of concessions. Larnaka International Airport, Fixed Cyprus London Heathrow Terminal 5 Fixed Date was fixed 24 months prior to planned consolidated opening, 18 months out decision was made to open it in two phases separated by 3 days. On opening day the decision was made to open in six to eight steps with schedule determined by success of each step. Pafos International Airport in Fixed Cyprus Port Authority Southwest Florida Both Initially fixed then became soft owing to International Airport, Lee County concerns about the BHS San Francisco International Airport Soft Official opening date was established following successful activation and testing of all facilities and systems. SeattleTacoma International Soft Following September 11, 2001, enormous Airport changes to baggage system design and scope were required; so, decision was made to go with a soft opening. Toronto Pearson International Fixed Airport Washington Metropolitan Airports Both Initially fixed then became soft owing to airline Authority (Dulles International) concerns about opening during holidays. BHS = baggage handling system.
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14 FIGURE 4 90/60/30-day issue resolution (Source: Arup 2009). authorizing overtime and developing workarounds for any- tighten. A typical sequence of activities that need to be com- thing that could not be completed as initially designed. This pleted is found in Figure 5. enabled the predicted rate of issue resolution to be increased from approximately 150 issues per month to approximately It is critical that progress toward achieving the 90-day, 450 issues per month between 60 and 30 days out. At 30 days 60-day, and 30-day milestones is closely monitored and out a more conservative approximately 100 issues per month reported on, as shown earlier in Figure 4. This enables one was used to predict completion. to predict when the facility and all stakeholders will be ready for the opening. The shaded area around the solid line indicates the lack of certainty regarding the amount of time required to resolve In the event that a date is missed and the facility or stake- issues. If issues are resolved more quickly than anticipated, holders have not completed all of the 90-, 60-, or 30-day tasks, opening day can be moved forward; if it takes longer than it is necessary to stop and assess the situation. Sometimes anticipated to resolve issues, opening day can be postponed. additional resources can be deployed to recover the schedule. As time progresses, the range of possible opening dates will At other times it is necessary to develop workarounds--at FIGURE 5 Monitoring progress through 90/60/30-day countdown (Source: Arup 2009).
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15 FIGURE 6 Managing issues through 90/60/30-day countdown process (Source: Arup 2009). one airport that opened recently the new Airport Operational parties that everything was working smoothly on the AOD. Database and Resource Management System was defective. Subsequently, when not under close scrutiny, a more per- The activation team noted this and implemented a manual manent and efficient workaround was implemented to elim- planning and data entry procedure. New processes and pro- inate the need for additional staff. The process used to con- cedures were developed and additional staff engaged so that firm readiness at Dubai Airports Company is depicted in it appeared to the public, airline staff, airport staff, and other Figure 6.