Airports’ capacity is under strain, and operators are focused on maximising existing and growing capacity. With space at a premium and passenger safety paramount, capacity planning requires intelligent forecasting. With combined end-to-end passenger flow and flight data insights, future planning is more straightforward, transparent, and accurate.
With growing passenger numbers increasing the risk of airport overcrowding, delays, lost revenue and even safety breaches, many airports are now racing to build new infrastructure and expand their capacity to match demand.
Inadequate terminal capacity can significantly impact everything from flight schedules to operations, and even airlines reduce or eliminate flights to specific destinations. It can lead to increased flight costs, reduced trade, tourism and investment levels, and increased competition between airlines for apron space.
While airports plan expansions, the reality is that major infrastructure upgrades can take years to finalise. In the meantime, airports must find ways to maximise existing capacity and find them fast. And to do so, operators need to be able to accurately measure and predict how people move throughout and use the airport.
Accurate growth forecasting, in turn, helps optimise capacity use while ensuring expansion plans are adequate and comply with building, safety and environmental impact regulations.
Capacity vs safety
Adequate capacity is critical for a safe, efficient and competitive aviation system. That said, no matter how much actual space is available, any weak link in the chain can cause ripple effects throughout the whole ecosystem. It is, therefore, essential to view and understand the terminal complex as a whole.
This includes considering whether increased traveller numbers are pushing safety limits.
+ Has the maximum allowable occupancy been reached?
+ Are there enough fire exits and security personnel?
+ Is crowding causing people to occupy spaces not designed for it, like corridors?
+ And, in an emergency, will safe evacuation be possible?
Any of these could result in serious safety hazards.
Plan, predict, perfect
Understanding how people move is critical to assessing capacity and forecasting the effects of delays or disruptions. Effective expansion planning relies on forecasting to predict traveller numbers at any given time.
Even so, the best-laid plans can quickly become obsolete as flights deviate from their scheduled arrival and departure times, creating a domino effect of disruption. If airports can foresee the events affecting terminal operations, they can adjust plans accordingly.
Historical data analysis has long been used to bring a measure of forecasting to operations. Forecasting tools have traditionally relied on input from an airport’s operational database (AODB) combined with assumptions or generalised measurements for passenger behaviour.
However, this doesn’t tell us much about passengers’ journeys.
The people factor
Many airports only focus on improving efficiency at passenger processing points. However, the whole terminal needs to be considered to improve passenger flow.
People will naturally occupy whatever space is available, even when it is not intended for that purpose. This leads to flow disruptions, bottlenecks and potentially hazardous situations, resulting in traveller discomfort, complaints and bad reviews.
Using passenger predictability insights, meshed with flight info and other data sources, offers a deeper understanding of per-flight passenger behaviour. This enables more accurate flow information for predictive modelling, allowing airports to plan and act confidently.
Airports gain real-time and predicted occupancy and movement insights for individual processes and the whole terminal. This can help airports to even out traveller distribution, reducing the risk of crowding. It also provides the opportunity to share live wait-time information to keep passengers informed.
Making data count
By using end-to-end flow management, operators can discover where people move and spend their time within the airport and how this differs from flight to flight.
With rich insights into passenger flow in and around the airport, operators can solve the capacity issues they face today and use the predictive data to confidently plan future expansion projects, smoothing the passenger experience for years to come.