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1 âUpgaugingâ is an industry technique enabling air carriers to increase capacity by adding seats to existing jets and replacing smaller planes with larger ones. While these practices are generally the result of airline network and system-wide strategies, their impacts are often experienced at the local level by the airport community. This study aimed to explore a broad concept of airline upgauging, covering the whole spectrum of practices. It was designed to take into account, comprehensively, the principal drivers and techniques of upgauging, from both airline and airport perspectives, including the following: â¢ Drivers/Causes of Change in Aircraft Size â Growth of passenger demand, requiring larger aircraft equipment/model â New airline launching operations at the airport, using a different fleet than existing airlines â New route/destination, requiring a larger aircraft with longer range capability â Airline fleet management, replacing of old aircraft with new generation models â¢ Change in Airport Mission â Upgrade from general aviation to commercial service â Addition of new route(s) and/or market(s) â Successful air service development â Development of a new type of activity such as international or cargo operations To cover all the possible drivers for airline upgauging, the project team conducted a nationwide survey and preselected 20 airports representative of all types and sizes of facilities and operations, using criteria such as 10-year historical enplanements, National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) category, FAA regions, and FAA Part 139 Certification. Eighteen out of 20 airports responded and provided valuable input on their experiences and challenges. Follow-up interviews with five airports were then conducted to discuss in more detail the impacts of upgauging on their facilities and operations. This information is summarized in the five case examples included in this report. Finally, to encompass experiences and opinions from a range of stakeholders, the study also includes interviews with the following state departments of transportation (DOTs)/Aeronautics Offices: â¢ Florida DOT Aviation & Spaceports Office â¢ Mississippi DOT â¢ North Dakota Aeronautics Commission â¢ Alaska DOT & Public Facilities The literature search conducted during this study, as well as the survey and interviews of airports and state agencies, shows there seems to be a general consensus among the various S U M M A R Y How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging
2 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging stakeholders: it is generally easy to identify and understand a posteriori what factors played a key role in the increase of traffic at an airport (or the loss of service), but it is always a challenge to foresee the future and make accurate predictions that will be used as a basis for todayâs decisions. Despite this difficulty, the study shows that airport managers and operators make decisions based on what they think is good for their airport and community, using all the data and information they have at that time. Their goal is to develop plans that will be as flexible as possible and that will help mitigate any potential risks associated with the uncertainty from future demand and airlinesâ plans. The following general findings about the relationship/communication with airline part- ners, lessons learned, and successful practices were identified through the literature search, survey, and interviews. â¢ Relationship and Communication with Airline Partners. The following factors and considerations were identified as essential in the discussions with airline partners: â Mergers, consolidation, and strategic alliances and their impacts on air service at local airports â Factors driving airlinesâ decision-making process for fleet management and aircraft model choice, such as market characteristics, fuel efficiency, and fleet age â Specific needs for low-cost carriers (LCCs) and international service at secondary airports â¢ Air Service Development â Air service development is a long-term effort that usually takes many years. If the airport does not have the resources internally, states and local agencies can help in some cases to pay for the consultant costs. â Attendance to industry events, such as airport-airline âspeed-datingâ conferences, as well as face-to-face meetings, are key to promote the airport and meet future potential partners. â Financial incentives are also an effective way to attract new airlines, especially LCCs. â Analyzing and learning about the airportâs local market and passengers was identi- fied as a successful approach. Airports sharing this information with airline partners to show them how to expand their operations and make money at the airport were extremely satisfied with the outcome of the process. â¢ Flexible Plans for Facility Development. The survey and airport interviews suggest the following strategies and practices for success: â Terminal building: ï¿½ When looking at their ability to build a new terminal, successful airports not only considered the initial costs but also operations and maintenance costs. For smaller airports that recently started commercial service, designing for a functional and inexpensive facility seemed to be a general good practice as an initial step. ï¿½ When immediate additional capacity was needed, one option used by surveyed airports was to build a temporary modular building to accommodate, for instance, additional holdroom and concession space. ï¿½ Once traffic starts to grow and airlines expand their operations, successful airports were able to look at their development in an incremental way, through a step-by-step approach that allowed them to meet the airlinesâ needs while controlling costs. ï¿½ Airports usually recommend looking at âwhat-if scenariosâ as part of the decision- making process (e.g., What if an airline decides one day to cease operations?). Value engineering is usually a good way to keep costs down and to avoid âoverbuildingâ terminal facilities.
Summary 3 â Improvement of airside/apron infrastructure: ï¿½ Successful case examples were identified in the study in which airport management had trained staff to be strongly familiar with technical details, such as aircraft characteristics and latest FAA standards. It helped these airports refine their needs assessment during phases of rapid growth and successfully reduce the overall program costs. ï¿½ Provision of air traffic services can also be a key factor to attract and maintain air service. While it is usually a request from airlines, it is the airportâs role to initiate the process with the FAA and justify the case. ï¿½ In some cases, upgauging can result in a change of the airportâs critical design aircraft. This report gives examples of airports going through modification of standards (MOS) requests with the FAA and shares lessons learned for an effective process. â¢ Revenue, Funding, and Coordination with Federal, State, and Local Agencies â Relationship building and communication with the local community is key, particu- larly when the airport is experiencing a period of rapid growth or loss of service. â In addition to FAA and state funding, a variety of other sources may be available for air- ports. All airports interviewed agreed that developing new sources of non-aeronautical revenues was important in the development of their future. This report presents some examples. â For a master plan, it was generally noted that coordination and a relationship with the FAA are important because differences can arise in terms of planning approach and vision for the airport. The development of flexible plans as part of the process is essential to meet the FAA requirements and also to prepare the airport for unforeseen events and potential deviations from the master plan forecast. The master plan can be used as a key tool to identify shortfalls and demonstrate to local agencies the need for new developments. â¢ Loss of Service â Something that airports in a downgauging situation might experience is the thought that airlines will eventually come back. It is a perception that both the airport manage- ment and the public can have during that period. It usually makes difficult the decision to close some parts of the airport facilities. â During a downgauging process, airports usually look at all the ways to reduce cost (e.g., number of gates, pavement, baggage claim). However, it was noted during the study that maintaining the security level for air passengers and reliable access to the airfield are key factors to attract airlines again and be ready to start operations in a prompt manner. â¢ Difference Between Passenger and Cargo Activities â The opportunity for airport management to have staff dedicated to the development of cargo activity seems to be a relevant practice. Most authorities have the same staff in charge of both cargo and passenger business development, but it was noted that the two industries can be seen as two different âworlds.â â For cargo airports, it was noted during the study that operating their own fixed-base operator can be a successful option because it allows full control of ground handling operations and it may create an important revenue stream for the airport. â For landside access, dedicated roads for cargo operations can be seen as a major benefit for the airport to avoid mixed traffic with passengers and with other airport or nonairport-related activities. â When not planned correctly, fuel supply limitations can become a major challenge for the growth of airport operations.
4 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging â Finally, private partnerships were reported to be particularly interesting for cargo activities. Working closely with tenants to align their individual goals with the air- portâs goals as a whole was identified as a successful way to maintain a sustainable cargo activity. In addition to the issues, challenges, and lessons learned, collected, and analyzed during the study, a new trend associated with airline upgauging has started to expand in the United States: new low-cost international service at secondary airports with narrow- body aircraft. In particular, the airline Norwegian Air Shuttle announced in February 2017 the start of transatlantic flights between Europe and three cities in the eastern region of the United States: Stewart, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island. This new trend may open the road to a fast expansion of international service at smaller airports that are designed to accommodate only this type of aircraft. New facility and operations requirements would be needed at these airports to accommodate inter- national traffic. Further research could be done on the topic to determine (1) whether this trend will be sustainable over time, and (2) what the specific requirements are that these airports will have to accommodate.