A Model of Simulation

ProductivityAPEX has success with MCO modeling; seeks to apply to other airports.

In time, she says, the model evolved as the company went through several phases of MCO modeling. “It’s totally generic now,” she comments. “It can go from airport to airport with minimal changes. Probably within a month to a month and a half, an airport can be modeled using this tool.”

More specifically, Callinan explains that Orlando International had three initial goals in mind for the modeling:

  • Could passengers be processed at pre-9/11 timelines?
  • What is the impact of technology on terminal throughput and capacity? “E-ticket machines, common use, RFID — a lot of things are happening,” says Callinan. “What they wanted to know is, is there an assessment of how this technology might impact the terminal?”
  • What was the potential for associated revenue generation? “Because the revenue generation models are changing at a lot of terminals, from a leased space arrangement to a per passenger processed arrangement,” says Callinan.

Officials here credit Orlando International executive director Bill Jennings, since retired, for spearheading the modeling effort. The vision was to capture accurate forecasting and modeling data that could be used by managers to make decisions, they explain.

Says Callinan, “An issue with the airport was, don’t just come in, do a study, and give us a report. The real focus was on helping them improve their capability internally, to be able to do some of this analysis. That’s where we really focused: the delivery of a tool and a toolset that the airport itself, once we left, could be self-sufficient in continuing to do this analysis.”

Adds Dr. Mollaghasemi, “They’re using it — weekly, if not daily.”

A key element of the modeling focused on security passenger screening stations, an aspect of operations at Orlando International that has become almost legendary since 9/11. The airport was considering adding as many as eight new stations, says Dr. Mollaghasemi. The modeling performed by ProductivityAPEX demonstrated that the airport needed only three more.

“So they were able to secure the funding and put in the three additional stations, and that solved their problem,” says Dr. Mollaghasemi. “They went from 45-60 minute wait times to under 20 minutes at the security checkpoints.”

Regarding future capacity at Orlando International, the models produced by ProductivityAPEX show that the current facilities are not yet at their capacity limits, according to Dr. Mollaghasemi. “Right now they’re at 36 million passengers,” she says. “Our models show they could go up to 70 million without needing a new terminal, especially when the new baggage screening system is put in place. They’ll be able to process more.”

Callinan says that the results of that data provides the authority with another tool when evaluating the need for a new terminal. “They may have various other reasons to build a new terminal,” he comments, “but this provides them with data from a pure passenger capacity issue.”

The work by ProductivityAPEX also aided the airport with its negotiations with Disney, according to Callinan. He says it’s estimated that some 10 percent of passengers going through MCO are processed via the Disney Guest program, which had been doing its own modeling.

“The airport was getting ready to do some negotiations with Disney,” explains Callinan. “Disney was doing its own analysis; the airport wanted a little more rigor in its modeling so they could put it on the table when they started negotiating with the Disney modeling. It worked out very successfully.”

Data — the more the better
Central to the product’s success, says Dr. Mollaghasemi, is Orlando’s ability to now utilize the programming in daily operations. “They are able to move around airlines,” she says, “and address this balancing act of common use that airports are moving toward. It’s allowing them to balance the load between two security checkpoints.”

Other airports interested in the modeling program can expect to pay between $200,000 and $300,000, according to Dr. Mollaghasemi. “It depends on the size of the airport; how much data they have available; how much of it we would have to collect,” she says. Dr. Mollaghasemi estimates the Orlando project cost some $500,000 and took a year to complete. Future applications will move more quickly, she says.

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