In an increasingly globalized world, international interconnectivity is key and a given for any thriving or expanding society. A well operating airport hub with supporting connecting commuter airports is essential to support the economy of a large metro or a large part of a country. With leisure and business air travel on the rise, airports are facing multiple congestion challenges that need to be managed both in the short and long term. In many cases, airport operators are running out of options resulting in overloaded infrastructure.
Historically, congested airports solved the problem by building new infrastructure –terminals, runways, taxiways etc. Back then, the airport was located outside the city it served and the land was plentiful. Today, businesses that either serve the airport or need the proximity to an international gateway, and the housing and office developments that support them have moved closer to the airport. Land around the airport is no longer easily available. Plus, the close proximity of housing restricts adding new airport runways, taxiways and terminals.
Many airports are finding new ways to overcome the challenge of managing the increase in traffic without big infrastructure investments and expansion to land outside the airport perimeters. One of these is the effective use of several independent or successive IT and operational improvement steps.
Step 1: System integration
One of the most common in this category is system integration between the gate/apron process and air traffic control systems. By automating communication that was historically performed manually over radio, phone, fax, e-mail, telex, such system integration enables real-time sharing of critical information between the involved parties. With an instant update of any change in an airport process connected to the gate or the ATC tower, the integrated system can process and calculate a multitude of consequences to the operators. This increases process efficiency and frees up time for the operators to do other more complex tasks without being bogged down with tedious/mechanical and highly repetitive tasks that are well suited for software automation. This kind of integration has enhanced safety by removing human error that is often connected to simple repetitive tasks.
Step 2: Common platform of processes
A natural next step in the integration process is to establish a common platform for processes and procedures across the airport boarders that are now supported by an integrated system. This entails removing steps in the procedures that are handled by the new automation and system. By defining new processes in an integrated environment, airports can increase the usage of the common use equipment and infrastructure supporting the gate area.
Step 3: Post integration
After integration of airport gate/TWR systems and updating processes and procedures, Software-based managers further process the traffic in- and outflows between runway and gate areas on a computational level. The processing power of new and integrated technical systems have provided staggering improvements in airside efficiency covering traffic flows between gate and runway and the turnaround process. The improvement has also increased on-time performance which not only is beneficial for the airport but has a big positive effect on the network efficiency for the airlines operating at the airport. In combination these improvements are saving airlines and the airport millions of US dollars every year.
- Proven and faster way to increase airport performance: System integration includes readily available solutions with a proven track record. Plus, integration takes much lesser time than installing new large infrastructure. Integration in key operational areas provides an overall increased airport performance with spill over effects into non-integrated areas of the airport.
- Increased efficiency and safety: Higher on-time airport performance in turn has a wider effect delivering airline network efficiency well outside the airport boundaries. Integration increases airside safety.
- The benefits of system integration over stakeholder boarders together with operational integration and advanced computer based automation and decision making offers the ability to cope with expansion in existing infrastructure
- More cost effective: The investment in system and operational integration has a higher cost benefit ratio compared to traditional, large infrastructure installations.
- Lower environmental impact: A by product of increased efficiency achieved through integration programs is the reduced environment footprint. With higher efficiency, less fuel is consumed (less CO2 and NOx) and with shorter taxi times there is less airport noise emission.
- Sometimes it’s the only way: Many airports are now operating under airport environment concessions which often stipulate the number of movements that the airport is allowed to operate over time. These concessions sometimes prohibit or restrict the airport from expanding infrastructure even if there is room for expansion. In this case, the only way to expand is by operating more efficiently through system and operational integration.
Overall, these benefits enable a better passenger experience, and that’s why system and operational integration is the way forward to fight airport airside congestion.
ADB Safegate is a leading provider of intelligent solutions that deliver accelerated airport performance from approach to departure. The company partners with airports and airlines to analyze their current setup and operations, identify bottlenecks, and jointly solve them using a consultative approach that enables airports to improve efficiency, enhance safety and environmental sustainability, and reduce operational costs. Our integrated portfolio includes solutions and services that harmonize airport performance, tackling every aspect of traffic handling and guidance, from approach, runway and taxiway lighting, to tower-based traffic control systems, and intelligent gate and docking automation. ADB Safegate has more than 900 employees in over 20 countries and operates in more than 175 countries, serving more than 2,000 airports.