Large, regional and small airports each contribute to the growing global aviation network. Scheduled carriers are prompting hub airports to accelerate access to major cities around the world. Some of these burgeoning airports, or megahubs, have become magnets for business development while contributing to solutions for urban development challenges. Point-to-point services from low-cost carriers have enabled secondary airports to open up access to regional cities and towns on almost every continent. Smaller regional airports continue to play a critical role in connecting communities to national and world economies. 

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand

Key Challenges Shaping Airport Planning

To progress, all airports, whatever their size, must address similar issues. They must improve operational efficiency and reduce their noise and carbon impact; manage policy and regulatory constraints; discover funding options in the face of funding uncertainties; identify viable non-aeronautical revenue sources; integrate new technologies; and manage divergent stakeholder interests. All of these issues impact plans for growth, which cannot be achieved without offering “shared value creation” for key stakeholders in airport development.  

The scope of each issue can vary dramatically from country to country, and even from one community to another.  Operating and prospering as sustainable entities within such a complicated landscape requires a clear and upfront understanding of all the considerations that shape airport planning and how to address them—before project implementation. It is at this formative stage where advisory, underpinned by demonstrated breadth and depth of knowledge, provides the expertise to put in place the essential elements for the greatest long-term impact, at the lowest cost levels. 

 
Los Angeles International Airport

Los Angeles International Airport

Here is a look at the complex challenges shaping airport planning today:

  • Modernization requires not only determining what technology will support operational requirements and objectives but also successfully integrating that technology into existing or newly built infrastructure. 
  • How will airports fund and design improvements to meet fast-changing capacity and operational requirements? Is a public-private partnership model viable compared to a more traditional procurement approach? 
  • With continued growth, airports must identify how to provide high-quality service to enable an exceptional passenger experience. Forward-thinking airports are embracing artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other innovations in order to meet this objective. 
  • Airports must re-imagine non-aeronautical revenue sources, as technology impacts operations and business models. With so many transactions online, the traditional rented space model must change. Advancements in beacon technology and blockchain technology offer operational and commercial non-aeronautical revenue generation potential for airports. With the airline-passenger value chain rapidly changing, airlines are examining the New Distribution Capability standard that will modernize the communication and distribution of air product offerings to travellers.
  • Moving forward in a continuously changing political landscape requires staying abreast of global and regional regulatory changes that can have a significant impact on airport operations and ROI; it also means interpreting and adhering to complicated standards and regulations while meeting heightened operational needs.
  • How can airports develop as part of an integrated transportation network that includes multiple surface access transportation modes, such as roads and railways and possibly hyperloops? Autonomous Vehicle technology, both personal and mass transit, is poised to shape airports’ physical infrastructure and impact their business models.
  • With the rising demand for air travel and concurrent demand for sustainable development, airports must earn their “licence to grow” status. Airports must seek the sustainable solutions that meet and exceed local community and national requirements for carbon reduction, mitigation of noise pollution and improved air quality. 

As airports around the world determine how best to fulfill their envisioned roles, they all share the same vital need to implement informed and well-thought-out planning that aligns multiple stakeholder concerns. An advisory approach that embraces proactive thought and a holistic long-term growth perspective is essential.  Commencing advisory planning at a corporate strategy level before moving forward with any project will recast airports as sustainable entities capable of delivering community-oriented results in a dynamic global landscape. 

 

This article was written in collaboration with WSP Aviation Leads Joe MacKay, Bosco Rodrigues and Louis Wolinetz.

 

 

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