Globalization has led to a considerable increase in travel-related activities around the world, which in its turn enhanced the business prospects. Airports are generally the entry points of almost all business ventures and tourism-related journeys. This way, airports have a crucial role in presenting the first impression to the visitor. Respective administrations and governments, therefore, try to prepare the facilities that are good enough to make the customers, i.e. the visitors, feel at home. While on the one hand, the priority here is the security concerns, the facilities like baggage carts, parking space, snack kiosks, small tow tractors, duty-free shops, small fork-loft trucks, Wi-Fi services, television screens, traffic forecasts and loading equipment, etc. are the facilities that make the life more comfortable for a visitor to the airport.
Nunn (3) identifies two primary dynamics playing a crucial role in planning and setting up infrastructure. The first is the process that leads to the placement of capital demands on the respective governments. This demand may be internally from the existing users, the entrepreneurs, or venture capitalists. The second is the policy formulation approach adopted by the officials and planners to satisfy those demands. From a long-term perspective, hassle-free airport and friendly customer services help in gaining a trustful relationship with the visitors.
Management of services in airports, as well as their infrastructure, holds greater significance in countries striving for better growth figures and in the process of inviting investments from abroad. Fry (126) states that over time the pressure on airport management to deliver desired performance across a wide range of activities has increased because now airports are being looked upon as self-sufficient institutions working towards nation-building. Two major components of airport management are planning and operation. There is a fundamental distinction between strategy and operational effectiveness.
Operational effectiveness involves providing services to the users, but the strategy is about taking a long-term perspective, making strategic moves, and trade-offs. Master plans are prepared as part of such long-term strategies. The master plans are also prepared with a time horizon of 5-10 years so that the term impacts of these plans can be critically observed by the strategists and planners. Given the advancements in technology, changing dynamics of the business environment, and increasing travel-related activities all across the globe the ‘master plans’ subsequently require amendments in the form of adding newer dimensions, taking off obsolete strategies, or including latest regulations from regulators or government.
This research is an attempt to study different aspects of an international airport and identify issues and updates to be incorporated into the master plan so that the airport can be ready for the existing as well as emerging scenarios.
Objectives of Master Plan
The master plan serves as an important blueprint of the vision of the company and the respective governments. The objectives of a master plan for an airport can be summarised as the attempts:
- To prepare for prospective growth in passenger volume during the next 5-10 years
- To work out land acquisition formalities around the existing airport, so that the actual area of the airport can be extended
- To take the fullest care of the travelers in coming years
- To provide a safe, secure, and hassle-free travel experience to the travelers even when there’s an increased load
- To set out an approximate timeline for completing the projects and expansion plans
- To ensure the safety and security of the people working at the airport or with related establishments
- To accommodate the increasing numbers of airlines and bigger sized aircrafts
- To prepare the airport for discharging its duty as an important gateway to the nation
- To identify environment impact reports and prepare strategies to minimize the damage
- To discharge its duty as an equal partner in stimulating economic and developmental activities
- To ensure adherence to the latest norms in passenger comfort, security, and other regulatory issues
- To be future-ready
The Role of an Airport
Leading international business information company Datamonitor (14) in one of its recent reports suggests that, “The economic importance of an airport means that nationalization has been common in the market.” This statement clearly emphasizes the national character of an airport and its importance in national economies. The report points out that in the year 2010 the global airport services reached a volume of 5600.8 million WLU million with an increase in the market by 5 percent. In a market value forecast for the Asia Pacific region, Datamonitor (2) projects that by the year 2014 the airline industry is expected to have a value of $143.3 billion, with an increase of 75.9 percent since 2009. This is an indication of the increasing role of airports is in times to come.
Fry (125) states that with changing environment and ownership patterns airport management has become more inclined towards the commercial aspects of the airport operation. It is emphasized that earlier, the management used to be more inclined towards operational goals, but now the financial returns have taken center stage. While earlier airports used to be built and operated by the respective state or national governments, the ownership pattern has changed drastically in recent years. Now private and public equity has a major role in defining the financial anatomy of the company operating the airport services.
The competitive policies have also played a crucial role in ensuring continuous improvement for customer comfort. Well-planned airports with lesser congestion allow airlines to ensure that minimum disruption occurs in their flight services, which in turn result in timely services, resulting in a satisfied customer base. The inputs from such stakeholders thus become crucial in finalizing the master plans.
Australian Government, too, resorted to extensive consultations with several stakeholders like the airlines, supplier companies, security agencies, members from the community, etc. before finalizing the master plan 2009 of Sydney Airport (Sydney Airport). Australian governments’ Aviation white paper clearly states, “Looking forward to 2030 and beyond, the Government’s goal is a vibrant aviation industry that, through its major contribution to economic activity and our quality of life, builds a stronger, fairer Australia” (CASA 1).
The changing dynamics of the market-driven economy have added the responsibilities of being an attractive shopping arcade to an airport. Once inside the airport, the target audience has nowhere to go for a couple of hours. If retail outlets offer an attractive range of offers for this target segment then the waiting passengers have nothing to do except shopping (Omar 226). This trend has grown substantially over the years and now suggests innovative marketing ideas, which means that in near future the airports might become the prime shopping points for travelers.
The tourism industry also sees a world of opportunity in such moves. The Manhattan-based high-end-storage company ‘Garde Robe’ has come out with unique offers for travelers who spend much of their time at airports. In 2004 the company launched a new service for frequent fliers traveling to a particular destination, which offered them managing, cleaning, repairing, and storing the travelers’ cloths and subsequently shipping them back to the client (Ott 29).
There are some airports which for strategic partnerships with airlines and manage a fleet of premium cars and choppers for transporting the premium passengers between the city center and the airport (Jorge 110). The master plan of London City Airport, prepared in 2006, sets the sights till 2030. Based on the British governments’ Aviation White Paper, it was designed to define the future of air transport by taking cues from the industry and domestic constituency (London City Airport).
Technology advancements have also played a major role in upgrading the facilities at Airports. Wi-Fi and internet facilities are now amongst the commonest of facilities at any airport. While talking about emerging technologies like ‘vehicular ad hoc networks (“Taking VANET to the Clouds”)’, and cloud computing, Olariu et al (15) also foresee the use of vehicles idly parked at airport parking space for a couple of days during which their owners are on travel in some other cities.
It is stated that soon the computational resources of these cars can also be pooled in line with the ongoing concept of cloud computing. Once the vehicle owners agree to cloud their vehicles for some purposeful activity, the airport management offers some additional incentives to the customer. This is one of the most promising phenomena for preparing and updating the master plan of an airport.
The Hong Kong Airport has facilities like Airport Ambassador, to take care of passengers. The company stations ‘Airport Ambassadors’ at high-traffic locations to help out travelers in emergency or need. The duties of an airport ambassador include; Greeting passengers, Answering passenger inquiries and giving directions, Offering assistance to passengers in need, Promoting passenger safety, and Assisting at special events (Hong Kong International Airport). At the first sight, this might appear to be a normal service at any airport, but the very fact that these services have been categorized separately makes it a special case in customer care. Some of the basic facilities that should be provisioned in a master plan include:
- Efficient and hassle-free security arrangements for the passenger as well as the customer
- Reporting centers with pleasing faces around to assist the traveler seeking police assistance
- Enough parking space for the vehicles as well as the aircraft’s
- Enough number of counters to take care of immigration, check-in, boarding, etc
- Cleaner and aesthetically designed public conveniences
- Effective transport facilities for transporting the passengers between the waiting lounge to the aircraft.
- Easy connectivity with the city center or major urban centers around the airport
- Facility to take care of the passengers having connecting flights
- Trolley and support system for carrying luggage
- Kids play-area, baby strollers, and feeding arenas
- Easily accessible runways, taxiways, and safety areas of the airport to arrange facilities for the travelers; do the maintenance work, security arrangements, etc.
- Easily accessible shopping areas
- Reliable services for the airlines in providing easy aircraft handling, ticketing, and other services
- Communication facilities with airlines, customers, and the families of airlines in case of any untoward happening.
- Affordable hotels and lodging arrangements for the general air traveler
- State of the art communication and networking facilities offering services like internet, wireless, etc.
It is worth emphasizing here that the supply chain of any service needs to be managed in such a manner that the customer can have the desired services in the minimum possible time. Therefore, the master plan must also take into account the time factor to save on the resources and allow the customer to have the service in the minimum possible time. The turbulences in the economy and increasing emphasis on security-related matters have certainly made life difficult for the workers as well the passengers at the airport.
The length of time taken to process the passengers thus varies depending upon the periodic changes in the security procedures, which in turn affects the overall efficiency of the airport services (Christopher 78). WDF is UK’s largest duty-free retailer with its presence at major airports. The company had been doing brisk business till the time of recession and increased security warnings for air travelers. Now the company is trying to come out with innovative ideas to attract more customers.
The strategy of focusing on a single distribution center is one such strategy adopted by WDF to rejuvenate its business fortunes (Christopher, 78). Studies have indicated that consumers at airports do not follow traditional shopping habits and segmentation impulses (Omar 226). Therefore, it calls for a strategic approach on the part of planners. Datamonitor (2) report indicates that the total revenues of global airport services were $102.2 billion in 2010, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.0% for the period spanning 2006-2010.
Therefore, taking a comprehensive look at the latest security briefs will make the master plan much more relevant to the latest needs. The San Diego International Airport Authority adopted the Master Plan on May 1, 2008, with projections for developing the airport to meet the existing as well as futuristic growth potential in terms of passenger, cargo, and operations (San Diego International Airport).
Five primary steps to the San Diego Airport Master plan process include;
- Aviation Forecast for Passengers and Operations
- Developing Facility Requirements
- Developing Concepts for the Airport Master Plan
- Preparing Cost Estimate and Finance Plan
- Conducting Environmental Review
Another world first-class is an airport at Dubai, with its humble beginning in the year 1959 and the first airfield on a wasteland of about 4 kilometers, according to Dubai International. The airport had a terminal building and a small adjoining fire station. Yet today Dubai international airport is one of the best around the world. It is termed as the 5th busiest in terms of international passenger traffic volumes. Besides operating a dedicated Emirates Terminal, the airport is soon to come up with an A380-dedicated airside facility(Dubai International). Similarly, the Sydney Airport 2009 Master Plan makes provision for services like (AECOM):
- Airfield system
- Aircraft aprons
- Passenger terminal facilities
- Airport access and transportation facilities
- Aviation support facilities planning
- Infrastructure utility systems
The master plan is also supposed to settle such situations that emerge during the political conventions, trade shows, or organization of the Olympic game when thousands of athletes, officials, and visitors converge in the city to be a part of the Olympic movement (Minis 621).
Facility Planning for the Airport
The master plan has to be backed up by sound planning to manage the facilities for setting in motion the blueprint of the new airport. Managing facilities for a business venture in such a manner that the organization can make optimum use of its resources for producing the services or products is now a prerequisite for taking on the competition and long-term survival of the company and venture. David Kincaid (22) argued that combining the specific skills in facility management offers the opportunity to add value and benefit to the organization.
Whenever a company plans to enter into a new area, trying to tie up the loose ends, looking for a new facility for parking the aircraft, maintenance center, planning, etc., it requires evaluating the pros and cons of selecting several available alternative strategies and locations. In this process, the best available course is chosen for the production of the facilities. In the aviation sector in general and the airport venture, in particular, is one of the most important factors is location.
Facility planning also depends upon the nature of the business, or operations involved. The airline industry, in general, is the kind of industry that requires huge investments yet the level of competition is such that airlines often keep investing for years together. At times, after locking the investments, the airline companies are supposed to wait for years together to achieve the desired results. Since the industry is investment-intensive from the beginning, it requires continuous replenishment throughout the operational activities as well.
Fuel costs, addressing the security concerns, maintaining well-paid pleasing personalities on the rolls for various types of services, preparing attractive promotional campaigns, inviting newer customers with loads of discounts, having a decent office and staff, etc. must be somehow coordinated, as well as some of the recurring costs that an airlines industry requires to survive. The airline industry is a complex one. It is a high-risk industry as is known after the incidents of 9/11, yet it is a highly lucrative industry with the potential of high profits. Huge investments, high risks, squeezing profit margins, growing competition are some of the major barriers to entry into this industry.
The global economic downturn has also severely affected the expansion of the airline industry worldwide. Because of decreasing profit margins and consolidation of their position, a major trend within the global airline industry has been for companies to seek strategic alliances with other airlines or supplier companies and benefit from synergies in operations. Therefore, while preparing the blueprint for the master plan these factors, too, must be considered accordingly.
After analyzing some of the parameters of a future-ready airport, it can be very well argued that the detailed planning document must address issues like:
- Forecasts for 5-10 years. This forecast can be in terms of passenger volume, number of airlines, size, and numbers of aircraft, peak runway movements, aircraft parking bays, cargo and mail volume
- Decisions concerning the funding mechanism, so that the airport authority never falls short of resources to push up the changes.
- Airport terminal building affairs: it includes provision for enough check-in counters, baggage handling provisions, security and searching facilities, aircraft maintenance facilities, public car parking, etc.
- Provisions for greener energy, environment-friendly operations, water harvesting mechanism, and effective garbage handling system
- Concern for heritage sites: This aspect often is ignored while working out the economic viability aspects. As aircraft are in motion, loud noise is generated, which often proves damaging for nearby heritage buildings. Therefore, the airport master plan must include measures like taking alternative routes during landing and taking-off or installing a noise-reducing mechanism.
- At many places, there are also colonies in areas surrounding the airport. Therefore, the master plan must also take into account the sufferings of the residents of these colonies.
- Maximizing the lifespan of the airport system with optimum utilization of existing as well as emerging resources
With sight on achievement of these goals, the implementation process has to be in phases. The initial phase would find out the workability of the master plan and the readiness on the part of the organization and its employees to implement the master plan. Subsequent phases while implementing the strategies will have to rely on the feedback so that necessary amendments can be included if required at any subsequent stage.
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