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5 Background 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 expe- rienced at the local level by the airport community. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that, over the previous 2 years, U.S. airlines had increased their aggregate domestic seating capacity by 12%, while operating 4.4% fewer flights (Carey and Nicas 2015). Airlinesâ use of upgauging appears to have particularly accel- erated since the end of the 2008/2009 recession, and the start of a recovery period for the aviation sector. A 2016 McGill University paper presents the following examples of upgauging practices: As early as February 2011, Lufthansa was planning to replace its two wide-body FrankfurtâNew York JFK flights with a single Airbus A-380 flight and, in May 2012, Delta called on its commuter partners to replace inefficient 50-seat regional jets with more modern and more capacious 76-seat versions. The trend accelerated in 2016 with mainline carriers beginning to use their own aircraft on routes previously served by commuter partners (Fitzgerald 2016). The two previous examples illustrate two poles of the spectrum of airline upgauging implementation methods: â¢ On one end, the upgauging of airlinesâ wide-body aircraft fleet to new large aircraft, as defined by the FAA in 1998 (Patterson 1998). These aircraft, also referred to as âsuper jumboâ jets, are characterized by their ability to carry more than 500 passengers and by being larger, wider, and heavier than the Boeing B747 (which, at the time of the 1998 study, had been the largest aircraft in commercial service since 1970). In 2007, Airbus launched the A380 as the first new large aircraft. As of 2018, the A380 has been acquired by a total of 13 international airlines, out of 281 International Air Transport Association members worldwide. None of the 13 airlines are U.S. air carriers. As a result of the relatively low number of airlines flying the A380, only a few U.S. airports are currently accommodating A380 operations. These air- ports primarily include main international gateways, such as John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles, Chicago OâHare, San Francisco, and Dallas-Fort Worth. â¢ On the other end, the example of Delta Air Lines mentioned in the McGill University study (Fitzgerald 2016) is a common technique that has been widely used by U.S. airlines and also has many impacts on airport operations and terminal design, especially at smaller local and regional airports. This synthesis is intended to explore a broad concept of airline upgauging, covering the whole spectrum of practices between the two poles referenced in the McGill University study C H A P T E R 1 Introduction
6 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging (Fitzgerald 2016). It is designed to take into account, comprehensively, the principal drivers and techniques of upgauging, from both airline and airport perspectives, such as 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 old aircraft with new generation models â¢ Change in Airport Mission â Upgrade from general aviation (GA) 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 Upgauging makes it necessary for airports of all sizes to make adjustments to their infrastruc- ture and operations. Upgauging potentially affects both landside and airside facilities. Airside upgrades may include airfield infrastructure changes (e.g., runway, taxiway, or navigational aidâNAVAIDS) and new apron sizing and gate capacity requirements. In some situations, airline upgauging will trigger changes in terminal configuration and roadway layout on the landside to accommodate the increase in peak passenger volumes. In addition to facility con- siderations, the use of larger aircraft and the addition of new routes may also require airports to review and adapt their operations to comply with specific regulations and requirements triggered by the changing nature of air service at the airport. There is currently little research and data on the comparative experience or best practices that would guide airports in planning for airline upgauging, managing uncertainty related to traffic variability, and making efficient accommodations responsive to aircraft and passenger changes. This synthesis seeks to begin to fill this information gap. Study Purpose and Objectives The purpose of this synthesis is to compile information about current planning practices at airports of different types and sizes and to determine how, in the current environment, airports plan for changing aircraft capacity. The effects of upgauging were examined with the possibility of suggesting useful practices, in particular for smaller airports. At the outset of this study, the project team identified the following objectives: â¢ Explore and articulate a broad definition of airline upgauging that includes considerations of both passenger and cargo activities and identifies the potential differences between these two categories. â¢ Develop a holistic approach to upgauging to capture and report a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and opinions from airports of all sizes (non-hub, small hub, medium hub, large hub), state agencies, airlines, and passengers. â¢ Include considerations and analysis of issues and challenges at airports affected by a major loss of service (airline âdowngaugingâ). The study reviews and addresses practices and problems that are commonly found across airports. Toward that end, the project team completed a comprehensive literature review, administered a survey and conducted interviews, and set forth the findings and conclusions about the impacts, issues, and recommendations related to airline upgauging. The team organized the findings around criteria and considerations deemed most relevant to understanding the relationship between upgauging and airport planning, such as the following:
Introduction 7 â¢ Airport size. It is customarily accepted that a change of aircraft equipment has different impacts at airports of different sizes. â¢ Timeframe (short- versus mid-term). Some impacts have to be addressed immediately by some airports (e.g., airside facilities sized based on the design aircraft), while others may arise more gradually because of progressive passenger growth (e.g., auto parking capacity needs). â¢ Planning/design versus operational/procedures. Some impacts can be mitigated through the use of operational protocols or procedures with minor changes on the current facility, while others may require a more thorough and time-consuming planning and design process. In terms of airport size, the project team anticipated at the outset of the study (and confirmed through the survey and interviews) that upgauging at smaller airports may result in a change of airport mission. Redefined airport missions would involve a substantial transformation and upgrade of the type and scale of aviation services provided by the airport to its local and regional communities. In addition, increase in aircraft size and capacity, which is typically associated with upgauging, would have a material impact on the needs of small airports on several levels: facility expansion and rehabilitation, regulations applicable to operations and management practices, community/public outreach programs and environmental mitigation plans, and capital investment planning. Greater impacts and challenges would be experienced, in particular, at airports shifting from GA activity (non-commercial) to commercial and scheduled service. At larger-sized facilities, such as airports defined by the FAA National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) as âmediumâ and âlargeâ hubs, impacts due to airline upgauging may not involve as broad a spectrum of requirements as at smaller airports. However, these impacts could present specific and unique challenges that require airport managers to develop innovative solutions to accommodate the growth of traffic and the use of new aircraft types. In some cases, airline upgauging implemented at large airports can also indirectly affect smaller airports for regional flights. As a result, small airports need to adapt their gate design, taxiway dimension, and terminal configuration to accommodate more passengers and aircraft with a larger wingspan. While the FAA and industry research programs have recently provided airport managers and operators with new terminal planning and design techniques for mid- and long-term growth, guidance related to short-term changes from airline upgauging is often provided only in summary form. It is fair to say that, for airports confronted with higher-capacity or other increased activity associated with upgauging, official guidance is virtually nonexistent in the early stages of planning. This synthesis is intended to contribute examples of successful practices and solutions in that area and to consolidate and set forth current standards and best practices for mid- and long-term planning. Study Approach Consistent with previous industry research, this project gathered relevant information through a literature review, airport survey, airport management and operations staff interviews, and interviews with statesâ departments of transportation (DOTs) and aeronautics offices. Literature Review Available literature was reviewed on topics associated with current industry practices (successful and unsuccessful) for the collection of occupational data, analysis, and reporting, as well as present gaps in knowledge and suggested research. Key information and data/statistics were collected and summarized in Chapter 2 of this report to provide background information
8 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging on the airport and aviation/airline industry since the Deregulation Act of 1978 and on the main factors and considerations that have resulted in the current market consolidation and upgauging trends. The project team used the Transportation Research Information Service, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) libraries, targeted internet searches, and DY Consultantsâ own library of professional sources, in addition to various other publicly available sources. The following related ACRP research and synthesis reports were important resources for this study: â¢ ACRP Report 16: Guidebook for Managing Small Airports (Grothaus et al. 2009) â¢ ACRP Report 18: Passenger Air Service Development Techniques (Martin 2009) â¢ ACRP Report 25: Airport Passenger Terminal Planning and Design (Landrum & Brown et al. 2010) â¢ ACRP Synthesis 68: Strategies for Maintaining Air Service (Gordon and Galvan-Peterson 2015) Survey and Analysis of Responses While the literature search was used primarily to identify the main drivers of airline upgauging (and downgauging), the project team prepared an online survey for airports to evaluate the usual impacts and challenges that airports experience because of the rapid variation of traffic and changes in aircraft size. To create a list of airports that is representative of all types and sizes of facilities and operations, the team performed an analysis of aviation activity at all U.S. airports and added to the screening process various selection criteria relevant to the synthesis topic: â¢ 10-year historical enplanements (2005â2016 data from the FAA Terminal Area Forecast database), to identify any significant variation in air traffic activity, either representing major growth (potential candidate for recent airline upgauging), or a drastic decrease (possibly due to a loss of service) â¢ NPIAS category and hub size (non-hub, small hub, medium hub, large hub), to provide a representative sample for operations and sizes â¢ FAA regions (nine airport divisions), to provide an adequate representation of various geographical locations â¢ FAA Part 139 Certification (Class I, II, III, IV) Airport choices were finalized in consultation with the panel of experts guiding this project. The collection of data and the results presented can be categorized as descriptive statistics summarizing the responses of a relatively small and select convenience sampling. The analysis of survey responses led to numerous insights about the issues and challenges associated with airline upgauging at various types of airports. The project team approached 20 airports. Eighteen completed the survey, while the other two did not respond before the deadline, so a 90% response rate was recorded. The surveys were completed by airports of all types and sizes, located all over the United States, as shown in Figure 1. Table 1 provides a list of the 18 survey respondents. Interviews and Case Examples The project team conducted follow-up interviews with five airports selected from the 18 survey respondents. These five airports included three non-hub, one small-hub, and one medium-hub
Introduction 9 Figure 1. Map of survey respondentsâ locations (Source: https://www.mapcustomizer.com/). No. Code Airport Name State No. Code Airport Name State NON-HUB (7) MEDIUM HUB (3) 1 BLV MidAmerica St. Louis Airport IL 12 PIT Pittsburgh International Airport PA 2 LCK Rickenbacker International Airport OH 13 DAL Dallas Texas Love Field Airport TX 3 CLL Easterwood Airport TX 14 AUS Austin-Bergstrom International Airport TX 4 STS Charles M. SchulzâSonoma County CA 5 ISN Sloulin Field International Airport ND 6 DAB Daytona Beach Airport FL 7 PGD Punta Gorda Airport FL SMALL HUB (4) LARGE HUB (4) 8 IWA Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport AZ 15 PDX Portland International Airport OR 9 HPN Westchester County Airport NY 16 FLL Fort Lauderdale International Airport FL 10 PIE St. PeteâClearwater International Airport FL 17 SEA Seattle Tacoma International Airport WA 11 SDF Louisville International Airport KY 18 PHX Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport AZ Table 1. List of airport survey respondents.
10 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging airport and represented a broad range of airline upgauging scenarios and operations planning practices: â¢ Recent major upgauging and passenger growth: 1. Punta Gorda Airport, FL (non-hub) 2. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, AZ (small hub) 3. MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, IL (non-hub) â¢ Major loss of service (downgauging): 4. Pittsburgh International Airport, PA (medium hub) â¢ Recent major upgauging and cargo activity growth: 5. Rickenbacker International, OH (non-hub) Complete case examples were prepared on the basis of the interviews and are summarized in Chapter 4. Each illustrates different situations and approaches to addressing upgauging/ downgauging and planning for changes in aircraft size. The goal of these case examples is to provide the reader with lessons learned, experiences, and examples of practices (successful or not) related to the impacts of airline upgauging/downgauging on airports. Interviews with Departments of Transportation and State Aeronautics Offices A series of interviews was initiated with officials from DOTs and aeronautics offices. These interviews were in states where recent changes in the commercial aviation industry have affected individual airports or the regional airport system as a whole. Specific offices and agencies were selected in consultation with the topic panel to conduct a 1-hour phone interview and discuss the recent impacts of airline upgauging in their respective state. The project team reached out to the following offices: â¢ Florida DOT Aviation & Spaceports Office â¢ Mississippi DOT â¢ North Dakota Aeronautics Commission â¢ Alaska DOT & Public Facilities (PF) Aviation and Airports The purpose of these interviews was to obtain the state agenciesâ perspective on the follow- ing issues: how to mitigate risks that may result from disparate strategic objectives between the airport community and airlines; state methods and programs that provide assistance to airport sponsors in the development of flexible plans; and how to factor the uncertainty of aviation forecasts and airlinesâ activity growth into environmental impact assessments and capital investment planning. A summary of their perspectives and insight on airline upgauging practices and impacts on airports under their authority is provided in Chapter 5. Results Using the analysis of information from the literature search, survey responses, and interviews, this report synthesizes and documents current industry practices (successful and unsuccessful) to coordinate aircraft and passenger changes associated with airline upgauging. The purpose of this report is to consolidate the available information and present a coherent description of the following: â¢ Main drivers of upgauging and current practices for aviation activity assessment, fore- casting, and uncertainty management
Introduction 11 â¢ Comparison of airportsâ and airlinesâ perspectives on challenges related to the need for capacity increase (or decrease in the case of downgauging) â¢ Relationship and communication between airport and airline partners, as well as with federal/state/local regulatory agencies and other airport stakeholders â¢ Issues in facility planning, design, and construction, as well as best practices inferred from review and lessons learned â¢ Impacts in terms of applicable regulation changes, evolving needs for staff and resources, and timeline and process for compliance with latest regulations and standards â¢ Financial implications and available methods for risk assessment; development of flexible plans and preparation of capital programs; and available options for investment strategies, funding sources, and leasing structure The appendices contain additional documents and materials that were used as part of the study.