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Aviation Safety Strategies at Airports

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Aviation Safety Strategies at Airports within the United Arab Emirates

One of the major issues that is relevant directly to airports, their management and operations is that of safety. It is the one area of the airport business that bound to cause concern to all of the business stakeholders, which includes airline operators, employees and the travel public. Recently, the international and regional airport and aviation authorities have developed a Safety Strategic Plan, which is recommended for use by all airports, indeed such a plan will become compulsory from January 2009.

However, the development and implementation of such a plan is only the first step in the process. What is more important is that the plan is operated in practice in a manner that ensures its efficiency and effectiveness in addressing the issues that it has been designed for, namely to reduce and eliminate the potential for risk in safety issues.

With the continual growth of air travel and the fact that this standard has only recently been developed it was felt that there was a need to study whether there is the willingness and necessary processes within the airport organisational structure to commit to making this plan work. Using airports within the UAE as an example, due the regions higher than global average growth of air travel, it was found that in some areas, specifically management commitment, resources and knowledge, there were areas of difficulty that needed to be addressed, particularly if the airport industry wishes to retain the confidence and trust of those that it serves, and specifically to ensure that air travel retains its safe operation record.

Table of Contents (Jump to)

 

Chapter 1 - Introduction

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Aims and Objectives

1.3 Overview

Chapter 2 - Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Airports and air travel

2.3 Airport operations

2.4 Airport safety

2.5 Regulations and legislation

2.6 Summary

Chapter 3 - Methodology

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Choice of research method

3.3 Secondary data

3.4 The questionnaires

3.4 Performance of the research

Chapter 4 - Analysis of Questionnaire’s

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Part 1

4.3 Part 2

Chapter 5 - Discussion and Analysis

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Discussion

Chapter 6 - Recommendations

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Industry recommendations

6.3 Further research

Chapter 1 - Introduction 

1.1 Introduction

As Dr Tarib Cherif (2008), general secretary of the ICAO[1] said in his introduction to an airport aviation summit held in Abu Dhabi in January, “Airport and airspace congestion in certain parts of the world are currently stretching sir navigation and ground facilities to the limit.” Furthermore, as this address goes on to add, with expected increases in global air traffic set to achieve growth of nearly 6% on average during the course of the next few years, with some areas of the world seeing double this figure, this will increase the pressure on all airport facilities and operations. Similarly, as the numbers of air travellers grows, the size of aircraft needed to carry this passenger load will also increase, as has been seen with the introduction of the latest European Airbus A380. Such aircraft will also add to the pressure at airports, both in terms of the flight operations and handling of extra passengers at times of boarding and alighting times (Wong 2008).

With the advent of these changes, none of the airport resources will become more tested than those involved with strategic airport safety systems. Safety at airports is a complex issue that affects virtually every aspect of the airport authority’s operations and, in addition, it relates to all of the resources being utilised, which includes the buildings, airfields, air traffic control, internal transportation methods, passenger controls procedures and the business employees. As such, it can be seen to be an issue of significant importance to the welfare of those who use these facilities, which include the airline operators who both have operational hubs at the particular airport location and those who use the location as destination points.

As with any other aspect of corporate management within airports, the effectiveness and efficient operations of safety systems within this environment need to be established and maintained through a process of strategic planning and monitoring, a process that has to be kept continually under review to ensure that it is regular upgraded to take into account the changing demands brought about by increased passenger loads, flight frequency and aircraft design and capacity. It is therefore important that the safety requirements of all areas if the airports supply chain are incorporated within this planning process. Furthermore, insofar as security issues such as terrorism impact upon safety issues, these also have to be incorporated within the strategic planning stage of safety system development.

Because of the high level of important that airport operational safety has for all of the business stakeholders, if follows that the concerns of these various interested parties is not only that the airports are developing safety strategic plans, but that these are being embraced by all those who work within the organisation and implemented and monitored in a manner that can be relied upon to deliver the expected performance levels and objectives, with is to ensure the safety of all and striving to address and reduce areas of safety risk. Incidents such as a near miss on runways near miss, accidents and terrorist acts within airport concourses and other safety related issues heighten concerns about airport safety and bring into question the quality of safety procedures that are in force at these locations. It is these issues that have formed the motivation for this research, namely can there be confidence and trust in the airport strategic safety planning and implementation process?

To provide a starting position for continued research into the issue of strategic safety planning and systems in airports, this study has concentrated solely upon the current situation as it has developed within the airports of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This region was chosen because its size, with only six airports in total, together with the fact that is still in the process of international airport development, means that it provides a more appropriate area to begin this analysis and evaluation because strategic safety systems might be in an embryonic stage. In addition, as will be seen within the analysis of existing data in the literature review in chapter two, the Middle East is one of the fastest growing regions in the world in terms of air travel. Furthermore, with the limited number of airport within a limited area it was anticipated that, by choosing to focus the study on two airports in the region, the results would be a fair representation of the state of strategic safety planning in the region generally.

1.2 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this research is to provide an assessment on whether airport authorities have engaged with and embraced the process of strategic planning for the development of an airport safety system and, if so, to what extent these have been successfully implemented and maintained. In essence, the aim of the research can therefore be encapsulated within the following hypothesis: -

To provide a clear understanding of the development and operational impact of the process strategic safety planning process within the six main airports that exist within the United Arab Emirates and identify whether these are efficiently implemented.”

To enable the achievement of these goals, it is intended to work towards addressing the following objectives: -

  • To evaluate the needs and requirement of safety system maintenance and monitoring within the changing air travel environment.
  • To provide an overview of the level of understanding and competency of airport personnel from the analysis of primary data responses.
  • To provide an assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of the strategic safety planning process when experienced within a practical environment. This is be achieved by examining the results collected from primary data resources.

It is felt that the above objectives will enable the research to provide a meaningful conclusion to the issues being addressed as well as allowing for recommendations for the future to be included where these are considered to be appropriate.

1.3 Overview

The study has been organised in a manner that enables a logical continuity of development of the issues that have been addressed and the way the research itself has been conducted, which is intended to add clarity of understanding for the reader. The following explanation therefore provides an overview of the study format.

Within chapter two, which commences following this introduction, a critical literature review is provided, within which analysis an evaluation into previous literature and studies into the issues of air travel, airport operations and safety performance issues with be addressed. It will also be used to highlight some of the areas of concerns that have been encountered by other researches on these subjects. Moving on to chapter three, the research design and methodology will be explained in greater detail. This will incorporate the author’s reasoning for the research method that has been chosen together with an explanation of how any constraints and limitations have been addressed. Furthermore, to enable others to following the logic of this study a short explanation of the data collection methods and research performance is also included. The findings from the primary research that has been conducted in support of the aims and objectives of this study, are presented in chapter four, and these will be analysed and discussed in further details in chapter five, where they will also be compared and evaluated by other existing data. As a result of these discussions, and where pertinent, appropriate recommendations will be presented in chapter six. These will relate both to the practical issues being faced by airport authorities when dealing with strategic safety planning and implementation, and suggest areas where further research may add more value and knowledge to this particular discipline. The study is then brought to a conclusion in chapter seven. Following the conclusion of this research paper, a list of reference sources is attached together with appendices, which includes additional information and data that was considered to be helpful in adding understanding to the study content. For example, detailed responses to primary data activity falls within this category.

Chapter 2 - Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

Business research studies set in isolation in general prove to be of little value except as forming a foundation for future research into the same issues. However, such researches are of more immediate interest where they have been set within, and compared with, the existing published literature and studies conducted within the same discipline. This critical literature review has been included with that purpose in mind. For reasons of clarity and understanding it has been segmented into three specific sections.

2.2 Airports and air travel

As was quoted from Dr Cherif’s (2008) address in the introduction to this study, air travel is continuing to see growth levels of around 6%, or to be more accurate 5.8% for the industry as a whole (see table 1). However, as this table indicates this is not being achieved by a balanced pattern when one analyses the position on a regional basis, as the same table, which covers the movements of around 94% of all international scheduled airline flights, although it does exclude the domestic travel, shows.

It is clear from this analysis that whilst North America and Europe has reached what could be considered a point of relative saturation, in other areas of the world there have been significant growth and losses being achieved. In terms of losses Africa is the major loser in terms of passenger travel and, joined with Latin America, is also losing its share of freight travel.

Table 1 Current air travel growth statistics

March 2008

 

RPK

ASK

 

FTK

ATK

v March 2007

Growth

Growth

PLF

Growth

Growth

             

Africa

 

-4.30%

-6.00%

70.10%

-22.60%

-10.80%

             

Asia / Pacific

4.30%

4.90%

76.50%

1.70%

2.10%

             

Europe

 

3.70%

4.00%

77.50%

1.90%

3.70%

             

Latin America

19.70%

15.80%

75.30%

-15.20%

13.50%

             

Middle East

 

15.40%

16.30%

74.90%

15.20%

17.30%

             

North America

6.30%

6.10%

82.80%

8.80%

3.50%

             

Industry

 

5.80%

6.00%

77.70%

3.30%

4.20%

             
             

YTD 2008

 

RPK

ASK

 

FTK

ATK

v YTD 2007

 

Growth

Growth

PLF

Growth

Growth

             

Africa

 

-0.30%

-2.50%

69.60%

-11.90%

-4.70%

             

Asia / Pacific

5.90%

5.50%

76.50%

2.60%

-3.00%

             

Europe

 

4.20%

5.40%

74.00%

4.70%

5.50%

             

Latin America

21.90%

19.60%

74.90%

-10.80%

12.80%

             

Middle East

 

14.30%

15.00%

74.80%

15.80%

15.00%

             

North America

6.50%

6.80%

78.00%

7.80%

4.70%

             

Industry

 

6.60%

6.90%

75.60%

4.40%

4.10%

             
  • Explanation of measurement terms:
  • RPK: Revenue Passenger Kilometres measures actual passenger traffic
  • ASK: Available Seat Kilometres measures available passenger capacity
  • PLF: Passenger Load Factor is % of ASKs used. In comparison of 2007 to 2006, PLF indicates point differential between the periods compared
  • FTK: Freight Tonne Kilometres measures actual freight traffic
  • ATK: Available Tonne Kilometres measures available total capacity (combined passenger and cargo)

Source: http://www.iata.org/pressroom/facts_figures/traffic_results/2008-05-02-01.htm

However, what is more important in terms of the objectives of this research is the position being achieved within the Middle East, both in respect of the month against month and year to date comparisons. In terms of passenger and freight air travel this region has experienced a growth rate in excess of 15%, which, when considered against a 74.9% passenger load factor, indicates that there has been a considerable increase in the number of travellers that area using the UAE airport facilities. Furthermore, in terms of its share of the international passenger market, the UAE now accommodates around 8% (see figure 1).

When this is compared with the share that the region held as of 2001 (see figure 2), it confirms that the region’s air travel passenger growth pattern is increasing at significant rate, quadrupling in the space of the past six years, with similar growth being achieved within the freight market share.

It is apparent from these increases that, when compared with airlines in other areas of the world market, the Middle East airport systems are having to contend with a level of change in the services and products that they provide to the travelling passenger. In addition, the increase in the numbers of flights and operators using the airport facilities present these airports with additional pressures in terms of air traffic control and other infrastructure issues (Wells and Rodrigus 2003).

2.3 Airport operations

As Anne Graham (2003, p. 98-99) in her study of airports and their management has rightly observed, the increase in air traffic and indeed the shape of airline travel, has changed dramatically during the course of the past few decades. Growth of passengers and changes in their expectations has led to an increase in the number of facilities being offered in an effort to improve the traveller’s experience. This includes the expansion of retail and refreshment areas within the waiting areas and departure lounges (Graham 2003, p.100). This aspect of the airport expansion of revenue attracting resources has now become a significant contributor to the airport’s total revenue (Graham 2003, p.147). In addition, the airports have had to respond with major improvements to their sites in order to cater for the increase in aircraft traffic, which has in some cases included additional runways and maintenance facilities and well as administrative offices for these corporations. An example of this expansion can be seen in the development and improvements that have been made to the Abu Dhabi airport over paste few years (News 2008). As this article, following a doubling of passenger traffic between 1998 and 2006, with this growth expected to continue at around 30% by 2010, the airport authority has invested in excess of $230 million in increasing the runways and other internal facilities being offered by the airport. The Dubai airport underwent a similar process of transformation in the 1970’s and 1980’s (DIA History 2008).

The relationship between the airports and the airlines that it services has also changed, especially following the successes and growth of the “low-cost” or budget sector (Graham 2003, p.100). Not only did this mean that these airlines no longer required the lavish offices and passenger reception lounges that were available to them in the past (Delfmann et al 2005), but because of the nature and small margins of the low-cost airline model there have been increasing demands made upon the airport industry to reduce the carrier cost, for example by these carriers seeking reduction in landing fees (Wells and Rodregues 2003. Delfmann et al 2005 and Graham 2003). With the budget airlines being willing to transfer their business to secondary airports, who were prepared in most cases to cooperate over these issues, the major airports found themselves under increasing pressure to follow suite. Furthermore, part of the cost saving exercise for the low-cost carrier’s have been achieved by a process of improving turnaround times at airports (Wells and Rodrigues 2003). This is another issue that creates pressure for the airport, both in terms of the changes in the performance levels needed by air traffic control and then additional speed and resources that needs to be attached to enable the ancillary services, such as baggage handling to carry out their tasks.

However, perhaps the major issue that is affected by the growth in air travel for the airports, in addition to the extra facilities provided and the developing and changing relationship they have with the airlines, is in the area of safety.

2.4 Airport safety

As mentioned before, airport safety is of paramount importance (Graham 2003). This applies to the activities that take place within the terminal building, the airfield itself and the surrounding areas and ancillary services and facilities. For those who use the airport safety and comfort are paramount to their enjoyment (Delfman et al 2005, p.564) of the airport terminal facilities. Similarly, with rapid aircraft turnarounds, keeping runways and taxiing areas safe and working efficiently has an equal level of importance.

Safety and security is part of the same process within an airport environment and it is important for the authority controlling these facilities to ensure that the standards employed to maintain the safety of such an environment (Wells and Rodrigues 2003), by ensuring that the right level and content of safety measures is in force at all times and, furthermore, that these measures include a process for regular monitoring and changing as and when the changes in the environment suggests is necessary (Graham 2003). Amongst other issues this means being able to identify and address issues such as hazards that my cause concerns within or external to the facility (Graham 2003, p.111). Another important element is the training and awareness programmes needed for all of the employees (Wells 2005 and Graham 2003) aimed to ensure that a) safety rules are obeyed and b) that in the event of a safety incident the employees is able to respond rapidly and efficiently to resolve the problem.

In addition to the importance of safety measures for the obvious practical needs, the airport also have a duty to maintain these standards simply in order to ensure that their procedures comply with the relevant regulations and legislation that apply to their industry and operations.

2.5 Regulations and legislation

Internationally, the airports have to comply with many of the safety regulations and standards that have been set by the ICAO, which lays down certain procedures that must be carried out in the cases of safety breaches, for example accidents, injury and illness (Wells and Rodrigues 2005, p.72). In 2002, the ICAO was responsible for the adoption of the “Aviation Security Plan of Action”, which also included within its structure the safety aspects of running an airport (Graham 2003, p.259).

In an effort to ensure that the airport employees are sufficiently aware of and trained in the internationally accepted standards, the ICAO has produced a number of publications and runs training workshops (Wells and Roderigues 2005, p.99). Although the airport authorities are not obliged to use these facilities, they do have to ensure that their own training methods are sufficient to ensure that the key safety personnel within the business are qualified to the requirements laid down within the international standards. In the case of the UAE, the responsibility for airport operations and security and safety issues is dealt with through the regions own General Civil Aviation Authority, whose role and regulations reflects that of the international organisation.

Recently, the ICAO/GCAA have developed and introduced a programme known as Safety Strategic Plans. The intention is that every airport will be required to have such a document in written format within their operational facilities and that every employee must be trained and have complete knowledge of the safety procedures that are in force within the total airport complex. This document will have all the necessary reporting forms included and contain procedures for the monitoring of the safety programme in the practical environment (GACC). In addition to internal monitoring and auditing of the implemented safety strategic plan, the intention is that in the future, representatives from this organisations will act as external monitors to ensure that the safety standards and requirements are being adhered to by the individual airport. At present this plan is a voluntary process, but it will become mandatory from the beginning of 2009 (ICAO).

The ICAO and GCAA standards are directly related to safety as it impacts specifically upon airports and airlines (Graham 2003, p.111). However, in addition to these regulations, or in some cases incorporated within them, the airport will also be regulated by the other national health and safety legislation.

2.6 Summary

It can be seen from the research into previous and current literature that the air travel industry has changed significantly over the past few decades. Changes in the structure of the airlines, with the introduction of the low-cost carrier have led to a rapid expansion of the numbers of passengers that travel by air, with this growth expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This growth rate, which in the UAE is running at three times the global average, is placing additional pressure upon airport operations and their management. Responding to the loss of revenue as airlines have reduced their use of terminal facilities, the airports have reacted by increasing retail space and other facilities. However, the other impact that expansion of air travel has had is to bring additional pressure to bear upon existing airport facilities. An area that is of particular concern as a result of this situation is that of safety, both within the terminal complex and in the external areas of the airport. In an effort to address these concerns, the national, regional and international regulators are developing a safety strategic plan, which is intended to ensure that safety systems are maintained at a level that is sufficient to meet the current demands of the airport environment. The findings presented in chapter five and subsequent discussions and analysis in chapter six will assess how successful these new safety developments have been in practice.

Chapter 3 - Methodology

3.1 Introduction

One of the difficulties with addressing an issue such as the performance of safety programmes within an airport environment is that, because of the delicacy of the issue, incidences that can be deemed to have resulted from a breach of these regulations or poor implementation and monitoring are rarely reported unless they have occurred in a manner that has been somewhat dramatic and therefore caught the attention of the public, for example, a near miss on a runway or a fire in a terminal. Although, if these incidences occur there is some public concern expressed, from research into the available academic resources, apart for incidents that involve incidents that are directly related to the involvement of aircraft, there is little literature that is devoted to the issues of safety breaches and incidents that occur within the airport perimeters and complexes themselves. This is particularly true when it comes to studying a specific global location, as with the United Arab Emirates that form the focus for this paper.

It was therefore considered that potentially, by basing the research upon a secondary data approach, the achievement of the aims and objectives of this study might be more difficult to perform. Direct contact therefore needed to be considered. Therefore, as is apparent, the final choice for the research method that would be appropriate was an essential element to ensuring that this study succeeded.

3.2 Choice of research method

As has already been indicated, a research study of this nature can be conducted through the use of either a secondary data or primary data collection method. Furthermore, it could also be conducted through the use of a case study, with the benefit of this method being that it provides significant detail. However, the difficulty with the case study approach is that it is firm rather than industry specific and, therefore, it cannot be relied upon to provide evidence that might be considered representative of the industry as a whole (Bell 2005). The conclusion of such an approach, as it might reflect simply the processes and strategy for an individual business, cannot be relied upon for comparative purposes of for reaching a definitive result (Denscombe 1998, p.36).

The secondary data collection method was also discarded as a sole source for the research. The fact that the available literature was scarce contributed to this decision, but it was also influenced by the knowledge that the author would be relying upon data that there had not included a process of direct contact. Therefore, although the quality and expertise of the original researcher would be unquestioned, there exists the possibility that the questions within the survey process might contain a bias that adversely affects the responses. However, as will be acknowledged, this data collection method was not discarded in its entirety.

The final choice for the appropriate research method was to provide the main focus for the aims and objectives of the study through the use of the primary data collection process, with the basis for this being a questionnaire. However, this supported by collection of data from secondary sources, to provide supporting evidence and other background and important information.

3.3 Secondary data

The secondary data was collected from a number of sources. These included academic books and publications that were available through libraries, shops and other appropriate outlets. This was supported by other available research that had been reported upon in reliable journals and newspapers. Where considered appropriate and of sufficient quality Internet resources were also utilised by the author. Such resources were also found to be useful in terms of collecting practical data, for example that which pertained to the statistics of air travel, where the www.iata,com website was particularly relevant. The same applied to the airport and other industry websites.

All of this data was examined and evaluated for the purpose of ensuring maximum quality and validity when related to the issues being researched within this study and the author is satisfied that it is of a standard that has added value to the research being conducted.

3.4 The questionnaires

The method that was selected for use within the collection of primary data was based upon a survey questionnaire model (Saunders et al 2003). In the correct environment, this method of primary research has the advantage of being collected from more that one business and therefore its results could be then presented as being relevant to the industry sector as a whole or as being typical of that group of firms approach to a particular issue or process (Bell, 2005). Bearing in mind that this was the intention of the research question, it was considered that this method would suit the purpose.

There were two important factors to consider with the use of this method. The first related to bias, the quality and types of questions to be included within the questionnaire. As this is an educational exercise and the author has no direct involvement or connection with the airport commercial sector in the UAE, it was felt that the question of bias did not exist. Furthermore, in an effort to ensure that there was no bias displayed from the questionnaire respondents, care was taken to ensure that the questions were not presented in a mode that could be considered to be leading in nature.

In terms of the types of questions presented, it can be seen by the completed examples contained within appendix one that these were varied in nature. Some were closed questions which required a simple yes or no or definitive response. It was found that this type was useful in identifying the size of the organisation, its ownership and location. Other questions were multiple choice, such as the ones that offered a range of agreement or disagreement choice when responding to a particular statement that was being made. The final question type included within the questionnaire was multiple choices. This approach allow a) for the respondent to pick a choice that was closest to the opinion that they held regarding a particular issue and b) provided the opportunity for more than one selection to be made if this was regarded as appropriated. In addition, as can be seen, with some of these questions the ability for the respondent to include their own comments was provided, which both respondents used to a greater or lesser extent.

In terms of ethics and privacy, apart from the name and position, there was no other personal identifying information collected from these questionnaires, with the exception of their works contact telephone number, and this was stated to be a voluntary decision of their part. Therefore it is not considered that the questionnaire has raised any issues or concerns that might relate to data protection of an invasion of privacy.

The finished template for the questionnaire, which as can be seen from the content, includes the individual airport employees’ responses and details, has been attached to the end of this study within appendix one.

3.4 Performance of the research

In summary therefore, it was considered that both types of data had a place within this research project. Although the primary data allowed for in-depth and specifically focused data, the secondary data also provided value in setting comparison and additional information against which to validate the findings of the primary research. As a result of this decision, the performance of the report incorporated to the collection process for both data collection methods.

Once the research question and design had been decided and formulated, the first stage of the data collection was concentrated upon that which would be required from secondary resources. There were two main reasons for this approach. The first was that this data would serve to provide a background of the region and airports against which the safety issues were to be set. The second was that it would assist in identifying how important the research issues, for example by outlining the extent of the passenger and aircraft travel growth rates that impacted upon the UAE. In addition, by commencing with the secondary as a first step, there was the possibility that a review of this information might provide additional important areas of research that had not previously been considered. Furthermore, such data assists in the construction of quality question that are required for the primary resource method in this case, which is important (Bell 2005).

Following the collection, collation and evaluation of the secondary data, attention was paid to the completion of the comprehensive questionnaire that was to be submitted directly to employees that were engage within the airport industry in the UAE. Taking into account that the region has six airports that can be considered to be major, it was decide that the appropriate approach was to make a selection that included airports that were at various stages of the development process. In this respect it was decided that the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports would be ideal choices. Dubai is as large international airport with a growth pattern that mirrors the regional average and Abu Dhabi, although smaller in size, is still benefiting from the same growth pattern. Following discussions with the relevant safety department, the questionnaires were then directed to the two individuals who are the respondents named within the questionnaires in appendix 1.

Upon receipt of the completed questionnaires, the two sets of data were compared, evaluated and verified and then the first draft of the research project was completed. As is often the case during this part of the performance process, it was discovered on one or two occasions that additional secondary data was required for the completion of certain sections. This data was gathered as appropriate and included after evaluation. Following further review of the draft research, where it was studied for value of content, presentation and correctness, the final study was completed and prepared for submission.

Chapter 4 - Analysis of Questionnaires

4.1 Introduction

As mentioned in chapter three, two questionnaires were conducted with UAE airport personnel. Those taking part were the Manager for Corporate Performance at Dubai airport and the senior manager for HSE and Security and Abu Dhabi airport. Out of the six UAE airports, these two were chosen because of their diversity in terms of operation size and the levels of annual passenger traffic that they experienced. In terms of performance and safety management, both of these airports come under the regulator control of the GCAA[2] (2008). The two airports are significantly different in size; Dubai being by far the largest, dealing with between 15 and 25 million inbound and outbound passengers per annum. Therefore it was expected that some of the results provided might differ between the two respondents and this proved to be the case. Both were provided with the same questionnaire and their detailed responses are attached to this study in Appendix 1.

The questionnaire was divided into two main parts. The first of these dealt with general information surrounding strategic airport safety measures and the way that these were development and implemented. The second part concentrated upon a providing a more detailed response to any concerns that arose from the formulation and implementation of airport safety strategic plans and measures.

4.2 Part 1

Both of the airports are owned by an individual airport authority and have at least one major regional airline that has an operations hub located within their perimeters. Therefore, these airports are designated as international operations dealing with global as well as regional airline travel to and from neighbouring countries.

What was surprising from the results to the initial questions (A4 to A6), was that despite its greater size the Dubai did not, at the time the questionnaire was completed, have either a master safety plan from the GACC or a current strategic plan for safety of its own. Similarly, although both airports have completed a number of strategic planning efforts, Dubai reported that it had not completed the planning phases of this plan at present, but that it was in the processing stage. The elements of strategic plans were updated annually at Dubai and every two to three years at Abu Dhabi.

Another distinct difference occurred in the response to question A12 regarding the stakeholders involved with the safety planning processes. These responses revealed that, whilst the relevant aviation authorities were included and involved in the process in Dubai, they did not involve the airline operators, unlike Abu Dhabi. However, in the latter case the board of directors of the airport authority were not included.

Prior staff training, as well as its sufficiency, appeared to be another area of concern with the Dubai airport respondent, who reported that this did not exist and this was unsatisfactory (A13 and A14), despite the fact that, like Abu Dhabi, some improvement in the effectiveness of airport safety measures. The responsibility hierarchy for these safety measures was clearly defined within Abu Dhabi airport, with this falling under the control of the ADAC Safety and Security department, with the director of this department in the ultimate position of authority regarding these issues (C.4. and C.5). However, at the Dubai airport responsibility was spread over a diverse group of organisations and departments as can be seen from the respondents comments at question C.4, and executive responsibility rests with the CEO and VP Aviation and Safety Action Group.

Both of the airports have written guidelines, which outline the policies of the aviation safety system, which is monitored for efficiency through a system of key performance indicators at Abu Dhabi. The Dubai respondent suggested that at this airport there was no system in place for monitoring.

Section b of part 1 focused more directly upon the issues surrounding the strategic safety plan and offered a multiple choice response from strongly agree to strongly disagree, Again in this section there were marked differences between the responses of the two airport employees. In this respect it was the response from the Abu Dhabi that showed dissatisfaction. For example, this respondent did not feel that the safety strategic planning process had led to new objectives being set or improved the identification of any major problems and issues that might have arisen in this area of the airport operations (B.1 to B.3). Furthermore, this same respondent was of the opinion that the involvement of management and budgets allocated were sufficient for the purpose of safety planning and, consequently, improvement of safety performance did not receive the importance that it perhaps should within the airport operations (B.5 to B.7). The Dubai respondent agreed with these latter observations, but in terms of the issues raised in B.1 to B.3 with regards to identifying problems it was felt that strategic safety planning was a significant help in this airport.

4.3 Part 2

As mentioned above, section two of the questionnaire was intended to identify the more detailed reasoning behind some of the previous responses. C.1 addressed the area of perceived obstacles that might hinder the efforts of safety strategic planning. The Abu Dhabi noted that in this airport there were three areas of concern. The main one of these was the change in the organisation, which has led to a new management and employee regime being introduced. The change of leadership also was viewed to impact upon the safety plan and, in addition, in the respondent’s view there was resistance to change being experienced with some of the airport employees. However, despite these misgivings and obstacles, it was felt that, with the new management’s desire to attract new business to the airport the attention on safe operations will become important and the strategic planning process, which has been set in accordance to ISO and ICAO standards, will improve safety conditions at the airport (C.2 and C.3).

The Dubai respondent, although including management commitment and change within the perceived obstacles (C.1), indicated that the major obstacle for the safety strategic planning process to becoming effective and efficient was the relevant level of knowledge and understanding, together with the insufficient level of capital commitment to this area. It is apparent from these responses that the training process in safety systems at the airport was insufficient at the time the questionnaire was completed. However, in line with responses of the Abu Dhabi respondent on questions C.2 and C.3, it was felt that the management were now changing and with a new focus upon safety, which in this case making it the responsibility of the whole airport team rather than just the safety department, it was considered that this would lead to improvement in the organisations performance in the area are safety planning an implementation of those plans within the business operations.

When asked the general question about whether the strategic safety plan was flexible enough to incorporate measures that ensured it complied with international aviation standards both of the respondents answered in the affirmative (C.10), with the response from the Dubai employee being the more complex of the two: -

Aerodrome certification is subject to compliance with international standards and those of GCAA which are audited by the DCAA. The validation of the aerodrome certification is indicator of safety implemented and practised across the Airport. Dubai Airports Company has a Safety Management System and a safety policy statement owned by the DCAA which guide the operationalisation of safety. The DCAA is responsible for the oversight of safety procedures and would ensure that operations integrate international and GCAA standards in their daily activities, and semi annual audits by the GCAA confirm that there are no safety violations. Safety is the accountability of the CEO who has a Safety Action Group to mitigate, eliminate or reduce safety risks.” Dubai respondent.

The questionnaire then concentrated upon the criteria that each of the airports used to determine whether the safety systems currently in place were effective. The following were the responses received to this question (C.12): -

Compliance with General Civil Aviation Regulations.” Abu Dhabi respondent

Effectiveness is measured by passenger perspective, airline growth, ATC occurrences, response time to airside incidents/ accidents, number of traffic violations; major and minor incidents recorded both by ATC and Safety & Crisis management; other KPIs indicative of this are compliance to GCAA, ICAO safety standards, Compliance to UAE National Aviation Security Programme, Compliance to ICAO Fire and Rescue standards, approval time for fire risk certification - measured at DCAA and the validity of the Aerodrome license. Most important of all is the current focus on greater transparency and communication on the Safety management System and its continuous enhancement at all levels of operations.” Dubai respondent.

In the final question (C.13) the respondents were asked to identify any areas that they felt had been missed from the content of the questionnaire. The only active response to this point was from the Dubai respondent who reminded that the safety strategic plans for airports are not mandatory at this stage and will not be so until January 2009, which they indicated was a target that they and other airports within the country were working towards.

Chapter 5 - Discussion and Analysis

5.1 Introduction

The findings described within the previous chapter have raised some interesting, albeit, disturbing issues. Within this chapter it is intended to further discuss this issues and, where appropriate, compare these with other information that has been made available from the collection of secondary data.

5.2 Discussion

One of the main results to emerge from the findings included within the previous chapter involves the issue of management commitment. This was experienced to some degree at both airports. One concern that exists about this issue is that, according to a press release (2007), AIDA[3] (Dubai) won the award for the airport security of the year. From the questionnaire response, this suggests that the reward is based upon security elements alone and does not take into account the safety element that is important in this respect.

Chapter 6 - Recommendations

6.1 Introduction

Following on from the content of this research, and in particular the findings and discussions that that formed the basis for the two previous chapters, it is considered that there are some appropriate recommendations to be made. These exist in two areas, these being those that relate to the industry itself and those issues that are considered to be in need of further research.

6.2 Industry recommendations

In relation to the airport industry, particularly as it has been found to operate on safety issues within the UAE, it is considered that there are areas of concern relating the to the development and implementation of a safety strategic plan that need to be addressed. The first of these is the apparent lack of management commitment that the respondents indicated, which in one case was seen to include a lack of capital commitment as well.

It is important for management to understand that, even when an airport has a reasonably unblemished safety record, it is still important for the safety strategic plan to be implemented to ensure that record is maintained and also that those who use the airport facilities for any purpose are protected from risk to the highest level that protection can achieve. Furthermore, it is known by management that to achieve success in any strategic policy implementation, the requisite amount of investment must be directed to secure adequate resources.

Investment in resources leads on to the second recommendation. In addition to the physical equipment this also refers to the human resources. Judging by the responses to the questionnaire it is apparent that there is a potential knowledge gap regarding safety issues and programmes. The only appropriate way to address these gaps in understanding is by ensuring that the business employees are made fully aware of the issues. This is best performed by the introduction of an appropriate safety training programme, which should also be considered to be a regular event as this will ensure employees are aware and cognisant of future changes and can adapt their safety processes accordingly.

6.3 Further research

It is recognised that this research has several limitations and, for that reason recommendations are being made in respect of further research, which, in the opinion of the author, should be conducted.

The first recommendation relates to the sampling size. With only two questionnaires responded too, albeit that this covers a third of the available major airports in the UAE region, there is a need to extend the level of research conducted within this study to a greater number of airport organisations. This will provide a resolution as to whether the situation as was discovered in the UAE is endemic of the industry as a whole or simply a local issue that needs to be addressed. IN addition, it is felt that similar research needs to be conducted in global areas such as North America and Europe. Part of the reason these organisations are experiencing growth levels that are significantly lower than the UAE is because of the fact that these reasons were the first to benefit from the new low-cost carrier business model. This means that they are approaching the maturity of the travel growth experience at a faster rate. However, one result of this is that airports in these areas will be experiencing a significantly higher level of pressure. It is considered that research should be conducted in these regions to ensure that the safety strategic is not suffering in efficiency and effectiveness as a result of that increased pressure.

At the commencement of this study, the following hypothesis was set as an aim for the research being conducted.

To provide a clear understanding of the development and operational impact of the process strategic safety planning process within the six main airports that exist within the United Arab Emirates and identify whether these are efficiently implemented.”

In the opinion of the author, the research and study conducted has led to a fulfilling of the aims and objectives contained both within section 1.2 of chapter one and those outlined within the hypothesis re-quoted above.

It has been discovered, based upon questionnaires conducted with employees within two of the six airports in the UAE, that there does exist areas of concerns with relation to the efficiency of the implementation and conduct of the safety strategic plans and programmes. Reluctance on the part of management, together with the lack of resources and the understanding that exists within the airport workforce appear


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