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81 The literature search conducted during this study, the survey, and the interviews of airports and state agencies indicate a general consensus among the various 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 permanently 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 showed that airport managers and operators make decisions based on what they think is good for their airport and community, using all the data and infor- mation 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 demand and airlinesâ plans. The following general findings about relationship/communication with airline partners, lessons learned, and successful practices were identified through the literature search, survey, and interviews. Relationship/Communication with Airline Partners Due to a complex variety of factors, airlines plan their development on a system-wide basis and usually on a shorter horizon than airports plan for their own development. The following factors and considerations seem to be essential in the discussions with airline partners: Airlines Mergers, Market Consolidation, Strategic Alliances Immediate coordination and communication with airlines involved in a merger process have helped airports to identify at an early stage any potential changes in the airlinesâ needs and to adapt to them. Fleet Management and Aircraft Upgauging Airport staff, through attendance to industry events, direct coordination with the airlines, and information publicly available, can usually learn about recent decisions taken by airlines operating at their airport and try to anticipate the potential new aircraft types that may be operated in the near future. Low-Cost Carriers Model LCCsâ needs are specific and strongly cost-oriented. In this study, the airports that have developed successful relationships with LCCs are the ones that were able to strongly tailor their C H A P T E R 6 Conclusions
82 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging operations and developments to the airlinesâ needs. The management of expectations from local communities was also key to help ensure a flexible and sustainable development plan. Air Service Development ASD 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 by paying for the consultant costs. It was found that attendance to industry events, such as airport-airline âspeed-datingâ conferences, as well as face-to-face meetings were key to promote the airport and meet future potential partners. Financial incentives are also an effective way to attract new airlines, especially LCCs. Finally, an effort to analyze and learn about the airportâs local market and passengers was identified as a successful and important approach. Airports that shared this information with airline partners to show them how to expand their operations and make money at their facility were satisfied with the outcome of the process. Flexible Plans for Facility Development The literature review, survey results from 18 airports, and interviews of state agencies and airports suggest the following strategies and practices for success: Passenger Terminal â¢ âEach airport needs to look at its ability to build a new terminal, to pay for the initial costs but also to think about O&M costs.â For smaller airports that recently started commercial service, designing for a functional and inexpensive facility seems to be a successful practice as an initial step. â¢ When immediate additional capacity is needed, one option used by airports is to build a temporary modular building to accommodate, for instance, holdrooms and concessions. While they are generally built as a temporary solution, their initial life expectancy can be extended through good maintenance, which gives the airport more time and flexibility to develop a long-term plan. â¢ 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. Each incremental development was closely coordinated with the airlines to fit their needs while controlling operating costs. â¢ âAlways think about the what-if scenario.â What if the airline decides one day to cease operations? Value engineering is key to keeping costs down, and to avoid overbuilding facilities. â¢ âDo not forget about your revenue opportunities.â It generally applies to concessions within the terminal, but also auto parking developments to support the increase in traffic. Airside Facilities/Apron â¢ âMake sure to have your own staff knowledgeable of all technical and detailed aspects.â Most airports rely on consultants to conduct airside analysis. However, successful case examples were identified in which the airport staff also is strongly familiar with technical details, such as aircraft characteristics and latest FAA standards. The airport team was then able to refine the needs assessment and successfully reduce the overall program costs. â¢ Provision of air traffic services can be a key factor as well 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.
Conclusions 83 â¢ Upgauging can result in the change of the airportâs critical design aircraft. This event usually triggers the most changes on the airside. Modification of Standards requests can be submitted to the FAA in some cases. They require the airport to develop a detailed and technical case, supported by cost estimates and changes in the ACIP. Well-established working relationships with the FAA are key to ensure an effective and successful process. Revenue, Funding, and Coordination with Federal, State, and Local Agencies â¢ Relationship building and communication with the local community are key, particularly when the airport is experiencing a period of rapid growth or loss of service. In particular, communication on noise issues will always be part of the airportâs duty, even though new-generation aircraft are much quieter than previous models. â¢ âMaximize your grant opportunities.â In addition to the FAA and state DOT, a variety of other sources may be available. Face-to-face relationships are usually required to maximize them and confirm new partnerships. â¢ âRevenue diversification is very important.â Each airport usually has unique opportunities. All airports interviewed agreed that the development of new sources of non-aeronautical revenues was important in the development of their future airports. â¢ A master plan effort is usually required at some point in the process for airports developing and growing commercial service. It was generally noted that coordination and a relationship with the FAA is 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. â¢ Convincing local agencies to invest in the development of the airport can be sometimes challenging. The master plan was generally identified as a key tool to identify shortfalls and demonstrate the need for new developments. Loss of Service â¢ Something that airports in a downgauging situation might experience is the thought that maybe airlines will eventually come back. Itâs a perception that both the airport management 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: number of gates, pavement, baggage claim, and so forth. However, it was noted during the study that maintaining the security level for air passengers as well as a reliable access to the airfield are key factors to attract airlines again, and to be ready to start operations in a prompt manner. Difference Between Passenger and Cargo Activities â¢ The opportunity for airport management to have dedicated staff to the development of cargo activity seems to be a relevant practice. Most authorities may have the same staff in charge of both cargo and passenger business developments while it was noted that the two industries may be seen as two different âworlds.â While business development for passenger activity may be primarily based on numbers and data (e.g., passengers demand, forecast, operating costs, capacity), business development on the cargo side is primarily based on relationships, trust, and other specific business considerations that do not apply to passenger airlines business.
84 How Airports Plan for Changing Aircraft Capacity: The Effects of Upgauging â¢ For cargo airports, it was noted during the study that operating your own FBO can be a successful option as it allows full control of ground handling operations and it creates an important revenue stream for the airport. â¢ For 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¢ âMonitor closely your fuel capacity and demand.â When not planned correctly, fuel supply limitations can become a major challenge for the growth of airport operations. â¢ Private partnerships are particularly interesting for cargo activities. Working closely with tenants to align their individual goals with the airportâs as a whole was identified as a successful way to maintain a sustainable cargo activity. Further Research During the study, a new trend associated with airline upgauging 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 only designed to accommodate this type of aircraft. New facility and operations requirements would be needed at these airports to accommodate international traffic. Further research could be done on the topic, to determine (1) whether this trend will be sustainable in time, and (2) what the specific requirements are that these airports will have to accommodate.