ESR. Sustainability is a buzzword when it comes to airport operations around the world. Many airports have made sustainability a key part of their business model, proactively measuring and managing their daily environmental impact. And they are being encouraged to do so by government support and industry incentives such as the ACI Carbon Accreditation Programme. There are many amazing projects underway at airports around the world, from solar panels to biofuels and electric vehicles. Some airports are even experimenting with direct carbon capture and storage. Every little bit helps!

The environmental impact of docking, taxi time, turnaround procedures, and apron resource management 

ADB SAFEGATE has monitored nearly 1.5 million flights at 13 major US airports since January 2021 and studied the environmental impact of docking, taxi time, turnaround procedures, and apron resource management on CO2 emissions and other KPIs. This research was presented during inter airport Europe 2023 in Munich, 10-13 October, with a white paper to be published later this year. Preliminary results are promising:

  • The preliminary analysis showed a large difference in average taxi time between airports, from 13.1 minutes to 7.2 minutes where airports with more developed taxiways and route management were doing much better. This is understandable and clear to see why.
  • There was one significant reason for taxi delay, which was not as clear. Arriving aircraft could not taxi to the assigned stand/gate because it was occupied by another departing flight with a delayed off-block. As a result, the arriving aircraft had to hold on taxiways, burning fuel, contributing to congestion, and worsening passengers’ experience. This problem affected 104,684 of the analyzed flights, adding almost 9 minutes of hold time to overall taxi time. This alone generated nearly 33 million tons of CO2, and we have not even talked about the cost of burnt fuel, other harmful pollutants, and its impact on passenger satisfaction rate.
  • Looking at the data from one specific airport, which we will call “AIRPORT A” for the sake of this article, we observed 273,285 flights, and 9.46% of those flights were affected by holding due to the occupied stand, adding 7 minutes and 31 seconds to the turnaround time.

It is time to take action but what can airports do about this situation? 

The Intelligent Apron proof of concept at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) led by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) in 2022 was a step in the right direction. ADB SAFEGATE and partners conducted the trial, which proved that:

What could this innovative use of technology mean for AIRPORT A?

  • If we apply these findings and savings goals to AIRPORT A, and even lower our expectations to 50% reduction, this innovative use of technology will result in 7 minutes and 21 seconds of saved turnaround time. Over a 12-month forecasted period, this will result in the capacity to handle 345 additional flights on the same apron infrastructure. If you’re working in airport commercial operations, just imagine how much additional revenue that would generate!
  • In addition to the direct monetary benefits, the ICAO data for the observed aircraft showed that optimizing docking and turnaround procedures could also save nearly 756 tons of fuel, reducing CO2 emissions at AIRPORT A by 2,389 tons.

Use of innovative airport technologies proven to be an effective measure 

Ground operations’ environmental impact at airports is a complex problem that involves airlines, ground handlers, and many other stakeholders. But solutions are available! The use of innovative airport technologies, such as the latest Safedock A-VDGS, has proven to be an effective measure in reducing the environmental impact of airport operations and increasing revenue.

Airport operators must consider optimizing their docking and turnaround procedures and adopting innovative airport technologies. It is time to take action and make a valuable contribution to the planet and passengers’ well-being.

ADB SAFEGATE  is a company that provides integrated solutions to airports, airlines, and ANSPs.  We are proud to be leading the way with innovative and smart Airside 4.0 solutions that turn airports into smart airports, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the passenger experience. Solutions include airfield lighting, power and control systems, airport and tower software, docking automation, apron management, and aftermarket services.  With over 1,400 employees and over 2,700 airports in over 175 countries, from the busiest and largest to the fastest-growing airports, ADB SAFEGATE is dedicated to making air travel safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly. 

Business Development Director, Apron Solutions