Economically Challenged

Airports meet in Boston, and the industry’s business model tops the issues list


But the airport is an engine of growth, explains Methner, and jointly, airlines and airports can work together to increase passenger growth, decrease security costs, provide enhanced customer service, receive funding for capital improvement, and efficiently manage workforce as well as introduce and deploy emerging technologies.

“Many investments that airlines are making to retain customers and differentiate services affect the airport relationship,” says Methner. “We look to a variety of common solutions that will bring a standard to a particular location.”

Methner says that by 2010, the preferred method of check-in will be via mobile phones and personal digital assitants, a technology now available at Houston Hobby Airport. Regarding upcoming technologies for airports and airlines alike, Methner mentions paperless boarding and trusted traveler pre-clearing at security and screening; radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and self-bag check-in; passenger value services like in-flight connectivity and wireless internet; biometric badging and non-intrusive scanning; and finally, airport authority linkages such as landside/airside collaboration and customer loyalty analytics.

“Touch-points between airlines and airports are growing significantly,” says Methner. “We are looking more toward a connected infrastructure which is linking together not only the airlines, but the third-party service providers and the airport’s facilities and services systems.”

The incursions hot button
According to FAA associate administrator for airports D. Kirk Shaffer, a priority at the agency is reducing runway incursions, be it aircraft or ground vehicle operations.

Measures being taken by FAA include airfield driver training, which must be done annually and will be required to complete.

“If [drivers] are on your airfield, I want them trained, and you should too…” says Shaffer, “…regardless of who signs their paycheck.”

Another major concern for safety is enhanced taxiway centerline markings, a measure that “is cheap (some $1500- $2000 per runway/taxiway intersection) and must be done,” says Shaffer.

“All pilots, regardless of their stripe, every one of them said this works. I will pay for it right off the top of the Trust Fund; no excuses for not doing this. Please, please, please push forward with enhanced taxiway centerline markings.” FAA has provided $240 million towards runway safety improvement projects, and between now and 2010, it expects to provide another $1.1 billion, according to Shaffer.

Yong Wong of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) indicates that air traffic based on the number of flights will triple by 2025 compared with 2005. Safety, says Wong, is ICAO’s first priority.

According to Wong, compatibility issues with airports accommodating new larger aircraft is something that must be addressed.

“The principle challenge of [airport] operators will be to provide sufficient [aircraft] capacity and efficiency without adversely affecting safety,” says Wong. “Aerodrome certification is an effective tool to ensure aerodrome safety, because through the certification process you make sure that airports are complying with safety requirements.”

Runway safety, as defined broadly by the Flight Safety Foundation, includes runway incursions, excursions, and confusion, says Bill Voss, president and CEO of the Foundation. Voss reminds that while there are not a lot of accidents, incidents are numerous.

Voss points to new data regarding runway excursions for this year warning that “this has been a horrendously bad year for runway excursions.” Voss relates that just because of the data regarding excursions, incursions and confusion should be paid attention to as well.

“It’s about severity and probability,” says Voss. “You need to be on-guard against runway incursions, but you also should realize it is absolutely clear from the data, the next fatal accident you’re probably going to have at your airport is probably going to be a runway excursion. The probability is just overwhelming.”

(The 2008 safety and accident report can be found on the Flight Safety Foundation website: www.flightsafety.org.)

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