Emerging Challenges In Airport Management Engineering Essay

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It is often said that managing an airport is like being mayor of a city. Similar to a city, an airport is comprised of a huge variety of facilities, systems, users, workers, rules, and regulations. Also, just as cities thrive on trade and commerce with other cities, airports are successful in part by their ability to successfully be the location where passengers and cargo travel to and from other airports. Furthermore, just as cities find their place as part of its county's, states, and country's economy, airports, too, must operate successfully as part of the nation's system of airports. Airports are facing many queries, current challenges in airport management are analyzed.

Over View

Airport world is changing at a rapid pace; air ports are facing Security, privatization, capacity constraints in airports, economic activity, congestion in airport and airspace, automation, ground access, CNS/ATM, Environmental constraints.

Airlines are turning to bigger and larger aircraft, financial constraints, increasing consumer interests are some of the irritants and the thrust areas of airlines and airports.

Airport revenue accrues mainly from operational activities and the trend is to maximize the non-aeronautical revenue and enhance the overall earnings.

Identified Challenges and Compacting Strategies

Security: Airport facilities require protection from acts of vandalism, theft, and potential terrorist attack. To provide a measure of protection, unauthorized persons must be precluded from having access to all airfield facilities. At most airports where air traffic control facilities, approach lighting systems, and other navigation and weather aids are present, perimeter fencing around the airfield is strongly recommended. In addition, security procedures should be established for the protection of the airfield and its facilities. Access to the airfield from the perimeter is typically regulated by some means of controlled access. At smaller airports controlled access measures may be limited to simple padlocks securing access gates adjoining the perimeter fence. Other access controls include the use of identification cards and number combinations to open electronically secured access points.

Hijacking was the first serious threat to aviation and it remains a serious one. To get through from this serious problem there should be a technology by which the faces of the terrorists can be identified easily. Face recognition technology can be a powerful weapon in the war on terrorism. The technology still should be a way to go before it can weed out unwanted passengers.

Privatization: The airports in India are inadequate for handling the increase and with India hosting the Commonwealth games in this year, upgrading airport infrastructure assumes prime importance. The problem

is further compounded by the lack of resources with the government. Hence, the recent thrust on airport privatization. This Privatization also brings in much needed capital and the efficiency introduced by market forces. There are many ways to involve the private sector in airport infrastructure provision.

Responsibility for new investments

Although the responsibility of the private sector under a concession always includes the operation and maintenance of the system or facilities and the supply of the infrastructure service, it may or may not include the design, construction, and financing of the new infrastructure.

Legal Ownership

The legal status of assets built and financed by the private operator may also vary. Private ownership may give investors more protection and facilitate the financing of concessions by making these assets available as collateral.


Leases and concessions are generally granted for fixed periods. At the end of the specified term, most assets (including those financed by the concessionaire), as well as the right to carry out the activity, return to the public entity. The contracts' duration tends to reflect the number of years investors need to recoup their investment.

Airport Business Model and Privatization

Privatization of airports would affect their business models too. Airports have two kinds of revenue streams -aeronautical and non aeronautical. International airports tend to have a larger percentage contribution of non-aeronautical revenues whereas AAI (Airports Authority of India) still lags in this regard. The government has recognized this and the Greenfield airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad have been provided plenty of real estate to develop non aeronautical revenues. We start with an analysis of some international airports and the Airport Authority of India (AAI), with the purpose of benchmarking the airports. A number of revenue, profit and input/output based factors are identified for the purpose. This leads us to certain conclusions about the state of Indian airports.

Capacity constraints in airports: A Capacity constraint is one of the bottlenecks in air transport growth. The Capacity is the combination of runway and terminal capacity. The runway capacity is determined by the regulatory authorities, usually in terms of the number of movements taking into account such factors as the physical characteristics of the runway and the surrounding area, types of aircraft involved and air traffic control capabilities. Whereas, terminal capacity is the amount of passengers and cargo which the airport can accommodate in a given period of time. Sometimes referred to as passenger or cargo throughput. Type of passengers or passenger mix can influence the rate of passenger throughput. Aircraft size is another factor that can affect terminal capacity. Airport capacity can adversely affect by external factors such as environmental restrictions and air traffic control capabilities.

When the air carrier demand at an airport exceeds the availability of slots, the airport can then be considered capacity constrained. To a great extent capacity constraints are eased out through International Air transport Association (IATA), schedule co-ordination conferences, in which well over 260 airlines participate and scheduled, are adjusted through bilateral discussions. Capacity is essentially controlled through regulatory framework within slot allocation mechanisms are employed at global, regional and national levels.

Liberal air services agreements with multiple designation and gradual removal of capacity restrictions have enabled increases in the number of air carries and air services, thereby putting additional pressure on existing airport capacity and it would continue to challenge the airports.

Capacity constraints include not only limited physical infrastructure like

runways and terminals but also administrative restrictions like night curfews,

noise & emission budgets or noise & emission limits, which all restrict the

overall level of air travel demand an airport is potentially able to serve. If

available airport capacity lies below the present or future demand potential of

a particular airport, the airport choice of individual air travelers will be affected

and will thus differ from a no-capacity-constraints case. Here demand

potential of an airport is defined as the number of air travelers who choose a

particular airport without capacity restraint. However, airport choice varies

considerably when travelers are faced with capacity constraints, and thus

depends on the gap between demand potential of an airport and the demand

at capacity level. Thus it would seem appropriate to incorporate the impact of

capacity constraints in a systematic and coherent way when planning studies

on future airport choice.

Air traveler's first choice of a departure airport may not necessarily be a

realistic one in a capacity-limited airport environment where demand exceeds

supply at some airports. Therefore some air travelers will opt for second

choice flight offers from other airports. The existence of sufficient supply at

every airport, however, is a basic assumption of many passengers' airport

choice models.

Economic activity: According to recent forecasts released by Airports Council International (ACI), over the next 15 years, global air passenger traffic will grow by over 4% per annum. This means that by 2020 something like 7 billion people will be using the world's airports, and, with freight traffic growing at an even greater rate of around 5.1% per annum, reaching some 170 million tons in 2020, it is clear that greater airport capacity is a precondition for achieving the forecast growth.

Airport operators spent more on new capacity than ever before and continued investment in infrastructure development at many congested hubs is set to continue. Spending on new airport technologies is also increasing, driven not only by the need to cater for growing consumer demand, but also by the need to reduce congestion and improve passenger throughput, safety and security.

India's civil aviation sector has grown by 22 per cent in the first six months of this year, according to Boeing India President Dinesh Keskar. Keskar said the growth rate from January to June varied between 19 to 25 per cent, averaging a healthy 22 per cent, and that this rate was likely to continue over the rest of 2010. India Strategic magazine quoted Keskar as saying during the just concluded Farnborough Air Show that load factors had already gone up with a majority of the flights in India going full. Coupled with that, the airlines had increased their fares by about 15 per cent, and that had yielded net profitability to them for the first time in two years.

"Cumulatively speaking, everybody is net plus," India Strategic quoted him as saying in its coming issue.

Congestion in airport and airspace: Air traffic congestion continuously lags behind the increasing volumes of military and civilian planes using air space. All major international airports and heavily used national airports are exposed to constant dangers of mid-air and ground collisions. In addition, major inter-city and inter-continental air-lanes are heavily congested. Aggravating factors are military plane maneuvers which interfere with civil aviation, and airline economics which may result in less than optimal maintenance and equipment. The increased use of private airlines also poses a threat as inexperienced pilots inadvertently enter commercial airlines. Justification for an expensive satellite-based plane tracking system over the Atlantic included the possibility of still greater air traffic density.

Air traffic congestion causes unnecessary and excess fuel usage and associated air pollution, and noise pollution, especially near airports.

Every year hundreds of near-miss collisions are reported, many at the more than 25 major world airports which each serves between 5 and 30 million passengers annually. Congestion-caused waiting times often extend to hours at major airports, and fuel is wasted by airplanes maintaining circular patterns, stacked above the runways.

Automation: Another important input that promotes the airport access is the automation. Advancement in Information Communication technology (ICT) has eased much of the pressure from airport operators. ICT has developed an extensive range of value added solutions that have helped to improve the passenger services, integrated airline, and airport operations including online tracking of baggage and cargo. Airlines are already on e-ticketing, e-check in and airborne internet access. Automated services and updating of real time information and its communication would continue to be a challenge. Airports would therefore depend more and more on automation for both operational and administrative requirements. Some of the automated services are:

Flight Information Display

Critical to the efficient running of an airport is the ability to quickly and accurately display flight related information to all members of the airport community including travellers, airline staff, retailers, ground handlers, transportation operators, etc. The Airport Flight Information Display System provides flight related information throughout the Airport including at the checkin desks, baggage belts, gates and arrival/departure screens.

 Aeronautical Billing

 Managing an airport's revenue stream can be a complex and difficult task. The Airport Billing Module is designed to vastly simplify the collation and billing of all your flight and non-flight related revenue. The system is completely flexible to your specific business requirements while maintaining billing integrity and ease of use.

Its primary focus is on improved operational efficiency and charge flexibility make it an affordable solution, minimizing your costs whilst maximizing your revenue options.

Airport AODB

The Airport Operational Database (AODB) ensures that every person working at, or passing through the airport has the information they need at the time they need it. Moreover, the use of a single database by all functions ensures data input and usage are optimised and efficient and that information distribution occurs immediately.

Resourse Planning and Management

Managing airport resources effectively and efficiently, including gates, stands, ticket counters and baggage belts is fundamental to the successful management of an airport. The Airport Resource Planning & Management System is an easy to use, long term planning and real time decision support tool for managing these resources.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Airport Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Module is an automated and centralised approach to dealing with customer service requirements and enquiries via telephone. As IVR automates routine inquires, your staff can focus on handling more complex issues offering you operational efficiency benefits.

The Airport IVR module is based on the work flow of customer request procedures and integrates with your existing telephone PABX system.

Incident Management

The Airport Incident Management system tracks all incident related activities within the airport, from lost and found through to security alerts. The system is designed to track activity, assign essential tasks to the correct people and provide tools for successful resolution.

Property Management

As airport shareholders and owners demands grow, non-aeronautical related income is becoming increasingly important for airports. This Airport module helps airports to manage their rental, lease, licence and concession related interests. It provides the information you need to make important property related business decisions.


New York, USA - Gentrack, developer of the 20/20 Airport Management System, announced today that Terminal One at JFK International Airport in New York has gone live with its 20/20 Resource Operations Simulator (RMS SimOps). Deployment of the RMS SimOps solution adds another module to Terminal One's existing integrated 20/20 Airport Management System used for Airport Operational Database, Message Broker, Flight Information Display management, Aeronautical Billing and Resource Management.

20/20 RMS SimOps provides an airport with a self-contained test-bed for running complex airport resource allocation scenarios. This solution was selected by Terminal One to assist with seasonal planning, testing of business rules, and scenario discussions with carriers through active resource visualization. The solution also enables Terminal One to quickly evaluate ad-hoc flight enquiries from carriers - a key function put to the test almost immediately by Terminal One Operations Manager Neil Samaroo.

"During training for the 20/20 RMS SimOps system, we received a phone call from Air France for a VIP flight enquiry and we took the opportunity to run a resourcing scenario through the new system," said Samaroo. "We had an answer for Air France within half an hour. Without the new 20/20 RMS SimOps, Air France would typically have waited up to 2-3 days before getting a response from our resource management team. This is a remarkable efficiency gain for Terminal One."

Application of Automation:

For Continental passengers flying out of Houston, boarding a plane has become a lot more like getting on the subway. The airport is the first in America to test "self-boarding" gates, in which passengers simply run their boarding passes through a machine before getting on the plane without having to hand it to a staff member, USA Today reports. 

Airline staffers will still be at the gate performing other duties. The TSA says that since passengers pass through security checks earlier, the agency has determined that self-boarding gates won't impact security. Fourteen other airlines worldwide use the technology, and self-boarding gates are expected to proliferate in the US if the Houston experiment is a success.


The airport management as a profession was established because of a need that evolved during the past 80 years of civil aviation expansion. An analysis of the airport organization structure across the globe highlights the fact that the organization was primarily focused on appreciation of thrust areas. Airport revenues accrue mainly from aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities. Airport world is changing at a rapid pace where it had to face many challenges. Some of the immediate challenges for airports are; Security, privatization, capacity constraints in airports, economic activity, congestion in airport and airspace and automation. These challenges have many solutions and strategies where the given strategies can give a bit of solution to the challenges.

There are some more challenges which are faced by the airports such as; ground access, CNS/ATM, Environmental constraints. Airlines are turning to bigger and larger aircraft, financial constraints, increasing consumer interests, etc... These may change the airport management to give the best, efficient, effective services to the customers in future. Improvised new technology can be implemented for the automation which can increase the capacity constraints of the airports as well as airlines resulting in the growth of GDP of Aviation Industry and Indian Economy.