Airport Operations


As the increase in traffic continues to become a concern in many airports, the problem of the capacity requirement to meet the demand of a large number of travelers has emerged. Other concerns include the rise in fuel cost and the security issues. These remain critical problems in this industry. There is, therefore, need to come up with effective methods of operating airports so that maximum customer satisfaction is realized and also to ensure that the capacity issues are addressed. This has been attributed to lack of enough space for expansion of airports and also to the increasing demand for air transport, caused by many people traveling across the world, either for business or leisure purposes (Kazda 2000, p.21)

Furthermore, it has been found that people are able to choose between the available airports to determine the one they would prefer to use when flying (Ashford 1997, p.24). Regional airports have been discovered to be expanding over the years and can serve a number of destinations. The increase of the number of passengers carried and frequency of in less known airports in London has been found significant compared to some of the largest airports in the UK. A number of explanations have been brought forward, to give a reason for this trend. One of these is that these airlines are low-cost irrespective of the flight distance. This is an incentive that makes people from distant places to try and reach these airports. The development of technology, such as the internet, has also resulted in development of low-cost airlines. The use of technology enables people book flights online, look for alternative travels rather than selecting the available journeys (Ashford 1997, p.76). There is also the option of looking for cheap flights on certain websites. Despite these, a number of problems still exist in airports; these include capacity and traffic problems. In this regard, some airports and airlines have been forced to outplace their operations to other airports and airlines. There is also the possibility of discouraging using airports and aircrafts by turning military airports into civil airports or encouraging people to own personal cars. This paper explains some of the capacity problems experienced in airports and tries to recommend some of the alternative ways of overcoming these challenges. It also examines some of the traffic challenges and proposes a number of solutions for these challenges.

It has been found that these objectives cannot be realized easily if the poorly operated system, that is one of the major factors in determining the choice of an airport by a customer, is not addressed. Such problems include delayed flights, the existence of long queues, loss of passenger cargo as well as high operations costs and time wasted between flights.

Thesis Statement

There has been concern over the insufficient capacity to accommodate the high levels of traffic in airports of the most developed cities in the world, such as London. The consequence is that congestion and late departures paralyze the air transport system in such parts of the world. Due to increased traffic, there is the possibility of the problem to continue worsening. This is likely to become a major issue for airport management personnel as well as airlines and there is need to urgently develop means of managing the increasing level of traffic congestion in these airports. This paper tries to explain a number of the capacity and traffic problems and the manner in which they can be mitigated to come up with a solution to the limited capacity in the airports, high levels of traffic, and as a result flights delays. There are a number of proposed solutions, for example, expansion of the capacity through the construction of new airports and expanding the current facilities to meet capacity requirements, reduction of demand by allocation parts of the demand to other areas or other means of transport, developing administrative and economic measures of reducing demand so that traffic can fit within the capacity of the facilities. The paper also talks about the use of new technology and creative operation practices that ensure the traffic is utilized to the maximum and facilities are used optimally. This paper also explains the changes that would happen if the new methods of traffic control and capacity utilization are implemented. It also gives a conclusion on the capability of the new design in meeting these operation problems.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this article is to determine some of the capacity problems that cities with many airports such as London face in their operations. It also aims at finding the level of traffic congestion in these airports. Moreover, the paper tries to find how these airports have been dealing with these capacity and traffic problems. It also tries to find limitations because of which the operation plan couldn’t solve capacity problems and traffic congestion problems. This is done through case studies. Finally, it tries to recommend a number of methods that can be implemented by these airports so that the problem of traffic congestion and capacity is solved.

Literature Review

a) Consequences of physical design and capacity limitation for an airport

There are a number of challenges faced by airport operations due to the physical design of the aircrafts and the limited space of the airports. Some of these consequences include high carbon dioxide production, increased fuel consumption, emissions of oxides of nitrogen and the maintainability of the aircrafts.

Lack of enough capacity due to congestion usually results to noise pollution in an urban area. Therefore, one of the challenges faced by London with its six airports within the city is noise pollution. This article explains the methods that can be used to solve such problems.

It was found that capacity problems in airports have the direct effect on the environment. For instance, noise from a landing or leaving aircraft affects the environment of the airports. Furthermore, if these airports are close to each other, the noise frequency becomes high. Other sources of noise include noise from testing aircraft engines and from aircraft in flight. There are also increased emissions associated with congestion of airports. These may come from aircraft engines, vehicles used for operations at airports and omissions from vehicles moving in and out of an airport.

Congestion also results in bad effects on the globe. These include the transfer of air pollution over long distances through such factors as acid rains, the release of carbon dioxide into the air which results in greenhouse effect that contributes to global warming above or below the tropopause. The high level of sulphur components in the omissions also contribute to depletion of ozone layer.

Other consequences of the capacity issue may be construction activities going on at an airport to expand the airport operations or modify the current facilities. These construction activities include excavation of earth, erosion of land by rain, diversion of groundwater and rivers to expand landing grounds for the aircrafts. It may also involve the relocation of human beings from their residential areas or destruction of forests to provide space for expansion of airports.

Airport construction may also result to water and soil pollution in the surrounding areas of the airports. This may result in lack of perfection in treatment of wastewaters, leakages of oil products from facilities at the airport into rivers, lakes and farms. Contamination may also occur when de-icing of airport pavements is performed.

Capacity problems as a result of congestion may also bring complications in waste management when dangerous substances used for repairs and maintenance of aircrafts and airport facilities are disposed without caution or used without precaution so that they bring harm to the users. Wastes may also be generated from operations taking place at the airport such as expired goods under transportation and passengers waste materials.

Another capacity, as well as design problem, may be the existence of accidents or incidents. These may be caused by the existence of wake vortices and their consequence on the surrounding population. There may also be blue-ice phenomenon i.e. the leakages from toilets and tanks in aircrafts. Due to traffic congestion, there may be confusion while aircrafts are in flight such as collision with other aircrafts and accidents when handling poisonous cargo. There may also be other effects on the surrounding concerning aircraft accidents such as leakages of fuel or leakage of substances used for extinguishing purposes.

b)The Strategy of a City with six Airports

1. Airport facilities and design of London City airport (Airfields).

One of the airports of London is London City Airport. It is designed mainly for people who need to travel within and outside London as fast as possible, for example, it takes just 20 minutes to travel from the bank or 17 minutes from the Olympic Games Stadium. Most of the information regarding this airport is available on its website to ensure passengers have stress-free flights and do not have to hassle. The information regarding flight arrivals and departures, and how to secure customer cargo is also available on the website. Other facilities include services such as eating and drinking, shopping and pre-booking. The airport also provides parking and accommodation packages.

The major destinations served by this airport are airports within London such as Gatwick airport, Heathrow Airport and Stansted airport. Other destinations include Southampton, Portsmouth and Harwich.

The other London airport is Stansted Airport and its operations began during the Second World War. It has expanded over the years to become the third largest airport in London. It is also the fourth busiest airport in the U.K and it is popular for low-cost airlines. It handles over 20 million passengers and it serves over 120 destinations. The airport terminals were improved, so a range of facilities is available for customers, including good shops and cafes. Those who travel for business purposes are able to obtain good conference facilities and points for accessing the internet. Parking options are numerous such as long stay, short stay and places for parking cars in the nearby places. The minimum parking period at the airport is 3days, while the maximum period is 8 days. Luton airport is also one of the London airports. It takes about 15 minutes with the use of Victoria bus services to get from the catchment area to the airport.

There are call points for buses such as easyBus services at Finchley Cross, Baker Street and Marble Arch. All the points are located near underground stations so the travelers can get easily to the required destination.

However, this airport does not have train station that allows movement to and from London. Consequently, there is need to board a bus in order to get from the airport to the train station. The problem can be solved by the use of easyBus which can transport passengers to and from the center of London with no charges. It takes about 1 and a half hour to travel from Luton Airport to London Victoria with optional pickup and drop-off points at Bent cross, Finchley Roads, Baker Street and Marble Arch. These points allow easy connection with various underground channels that facilitate movement to and from the airport. This route is well served by easyBus and Greenline. The buses are easy to identify by the use of orange and green brands.

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The other London airport is Heathrow and is it the largest airport of London. It is located where the first rail network in London started and the extension to terminals was completed in 1977. There is also loop under the airport to terminal 4 that started operating in 1986. In spite of the popularity of its service among the employees and passengers of the airport, there was need to incorporate express service. This led to approval of construction of Heathrow express in 1993 that was launched in 1998. This line goes through Great Western Main land rail connection from London across Paddington and then extends for 18km where it reaches the airport, and then there are additional 7km along a newly constructed lane that goes under the airport. The major airline is Heathrow Express that allows fast reliable and the comfortable journey between Heathrow and London at low cost. The trains that travel between London and Heathrow are of high efficiency and ensure branding which is done around the terminals. The trains leave with intervals of 15 minutes and connect the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th terminals.

The other important airport in London is the Gatwick Airport and it is regarded the second largest airport in London after Heathrow. It has also been served with a rail-link since 1959. It is also one of the busiest airports in London due to its location in the busy north-south link between Brighton and London. In 2000/2001, the rolling stock was substituted with the stronger branding on trains that covered the route between the airport and London Victoria stations. In addition, there have been increased investments in the marketing of services to both business and leisure travelers. This has led to Heathrow`s description as fast and premium service. There is a successful rail link that has been formed between the airport and the rail station. This is facilitated through the use of Gatwick Express which competes against the commuter rail services which are relatively slower. These commuter rail services do not operate in the airport. There are a number of advantages associated with the use of Gatwick Express services such as ensuring strong branding and effective rolling stock, the presence of the train at the airport at the right time, guarantee of rolling stock with enough baggage and less crowding over the day. The limitation of this service is that it does not provide an improvement of journey time compared with the rail services. This has been associated with lack of the high-speed track.

Airlines operating from the six airports (Airlines).

It is possible to know the cheapest airline to use when moving to and from the airports in London. The main airlines from Britain that fly to and from London City Airport are British Airways, Lufthansa and KLM. Those from other countries include Swiss Airlines, Air France, American Airlines, Berlin Airlines and Sky Work Airlines. Those flying to Gatwick Airport include Emirates, Turkish Airlines, TAP, Hong Kong Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Belavia. Those flying to and from Luton Airport include easy Jet, Wizz Air, Thomson, Monarch Airlines, Flybe, Blue Air and Aer Ligus. The main flights to and from London Southend include Aer Lingus, easyJet, Aer Arann. Those flying to and from London Stansted Airport are likely to use one of the following airlines: Raynair, Pegasus Airlines, TUlfly, Thomson, Atlas Jet, Etihad Airways and Iceland Express. The airlines flying to and from London Heathrow include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Kenya Airways, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, TAP, Finnair, Turkish Airlines, Air Canada and Qantas Airlines.

Destinations served from the six airports (Populations).

The destinations served by these airports are generally in all regions around the world. However, there are major destinations that are frequently served by these airlines. These include business travelers who travel to the neighboring countries to carry out business transactions. For instance, the Air Berlin is mostly used for business travelers traveling to and from Germany. Other common travelers are British people who commute to and from London. They have to move from their cities to London at the right time on daily basis. This requires the use of aircrafts which are served by these airports. Other common travelers include both local and international tourists who go in vacation. They require the comfortable journey to and from their residential places, which is provided by these airlines.

Access from the catchment area (Access).

There are a number of ways in which these airports can be accessed from the catchment areas. These accesses are available 24 hours a day and can be achieved by means of both public and private transport.

The process of access is also achievable by means of motorways and major roads leading to these airports if the traveler prefers to drive. It is a routine that booking is advantageous because travel providers usually give high discounts to those who book flights.

One of the popular methods to access these airports is by car. People who own cars enjoy a lot of parking privileges. This is mainly important for those who need to travel during morning hours, so they can book an airport hotel.

The other access option is by coach. An example is the Terravision shuttle services that assist people who want to reach the airport early by providing cheap and quick transport. The journey from Victoria to Stansted, for instance, is 55 minutes long. Tickets are usually sold for $9-$14 per person.

Taxis are also common means of reaching these airports from catchment areas. This is attributed to the advantage of being hassle free and comfortable. The total number of taxis per each airport is about 500. It is usually easy to obtain the services of taxis because of the ease of contacting individual operators.

There are a couple of alternatives that can be used to access the airports in London; these are by car or by train. The costs of using a car are usually dictated by the cost of fuel plus cost of parking and time of travel. The time cost is determined by multiplying the time of travel by a certain fixed value and this value is dictated by the nature of travel, such as business or non-business travel. The costs of travelling by train are dictated by the price of the fare and travel time. The costs of travel times are determined by a level of service document contained in a saved file.

Another convenient way of reaching the airport is by train. Most of the airports in London are served by rail terminals. These rail services offer fast transportation between the catchment areas and the midlands. The information regarding their arrival, departure and fares can be found in the respective airports. They also offer discounts for those who book earlier before the time of travel. Their booking services can also be provided online.

Connectivity to the airports (Rail-link).

Most of the airports in London have rail link that allow customers reach the airport safely and comfortably. Out of 150 airports in the UK, 39% have connections with rail transport that connects them directly with the airports, while about 12% are under the progress of constructing rail links. Compared to North America, which has 22% of its airports connected by rail links, European airports have put more emphasis on developing new rail links or improving the existing ones (Crump 1985, p.65). Due to these better accesses to rail links, there are a number of advantages offered by these airlines. One is that there is journey time reliability and high values of time, passengers are able to get to the city center just in time, there are direct services from the airport to the catchment area, the product is easily positioned through brand awareness to ensure that the market demand is met. There is also the possibility of marketing a system of rail link with high modes as a premium product and dedicated time in marketing a product.

Strengths and weaknesses of operating six airports in one city.

There are certain strengths and weaknesses of operating six airports in one city such as London. These strengths and weaknesses can be examined through the use of SWOT analysis. One of the largest airlines, such as British Airways, is not exempted from this analysis. It is true that each airline makes its own ways of doing things depending on the circumstances they are facing. However, there are general similarities in the strengths and weaknesses of British Airways and other airlines with each airline trying to ensure maximum strengths and opportunities while reducing the number of threats and weaknesses.

The main strength of the British airlines is that it is able to carry out air travel. In spite of the challenges about time, the use of air travel continues to gain popularity in Britain and other countries worldwide. This is due to the increased population of the world and the ability to fly. There is also the strength of record as well as good attitude from the public as they consider air travel fast and effective. This is an attitude sheared by both traditional and new airlines that they offer safe and fast transport services.

The other strength is that airline employees are well trained and have the right experience to carry out their duties effectively. In terms of business, they are considered capable of segmenting markets to allow a range of services and enable decisions making. However, they are regarded as one of the industries with highest spoilage rates based on the number of empty seats left when a plane leaves the ground. Furthermore, acquisition of aircraft is not easy and a lot of capital is needed. There is also the likelihood of loss after investment in the industry. They are also associated with diverse working environments such as international countries. This requires communication and monitoring which can be difficult when the weather is bad.

The opportunities in airline industry include the development of leisure and business activities. This is mainly applicable for international activities. Due to the technology development, there is the likelihood of savings by developing more fuel effective aircrafts that are automatically operated. The use of technology can also result in high income as a result of improved customer service, such as access to the internet during flights and other extra services for which the customer has to pay. There is also the possibility of improving the carriage of aircrafts by linking up with other carriers. Coordination of schedules allows carrying of passengers through code-sharing agreements.

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Research Design

A pioneering investigation of airport activities was carried out with the purpose of proposing corrective measures to ensure the available facilities and equipment utilized to meet the capacity requirements. The purpose of the research was also to come up with ways in which traffic issues can be dealt with to ensure there are smooth arrangements for taking off and landing of aircrafts. The research was also aimed at providing an idea of factors that can be used to improve turn-around time for aircrafts to enable activities such as maintenance, fueling and provision of catering services.

This research was inspired by the need to determine the best turnaround times that ensure that there will be no delays that contribute to traffic congestion and customer disappointment. It was also aimed at developing partnerships which allow easy communication and business activities at the airports.

The project lasted 20 months starting from June 2009. The main activities carried out are the following:

  1. Audit the important areas such as ground asset management, aircraft practical activities and maintenance, loading of cargo and handling of passengers as well as their boarding and comfort in planes
  2. Determine the current ramp system and the effects of the use of the system in meeting capacity requirements and effective utilization of the available capacity.
  3. Determine a better integrated information system and the level of use of long haul in air cargo
  4. Audit the level of use of automated technologies such as auto-identification and expansion of benchmarking processes by observing the operations of one of the most successful airports in the U.K, i.e. Heathrow Airport.

During the research, the research team was involved in directing the next activity and participated in major technology trials and records of their findings. In addition, organizations interested in finding information about airport operations were also invited.

Modeling the access mode

This report is based on research conducted using relevant materials and assisted by the thorough survey carried out in some of the leading airports in London and Netherlands by interviewing their authorities and consulting personnel. It is a report from research team composed of metropolitan planning institutions and other interested government and non-government organizations. During the research, a number of passenger modes of transport were identified. They were identified based on the access mode that was actually being used or the theoretical access modes that could be successfully used in those airports. Apart from availability, the chosen models were assumed to use access time and cost as the main variables. There is always a division of time variable into waiting time and walking time.

The results of the survey indicated that such access mode to the Heathrow airport as cars contributes to about 7.5% in due to the general rule against the use of cars as a result of excess congestion and the existence of toll roads. In Luton airport, it was found that rail contributes to 4% of the total transport modes in and out of the airport, while in London City Airport it was found that rail contributes to over 30% of the total access modes. The reason for this was the presence of road congestions, less parking space and high costs of taxis. It was therefore concluded that the type of access mode to be used should be determined by a number of fares for each type of access mode and the amount of parking space. It was recommended that airports which have a lot of parking space used cars as the main access mode while those which depended on fare as the main variable used rail as the main access mode.

It was also found that there was variation in access modes within and outside the segments of the airport. It was found that those who did not live around the airport were more likely to use public transport more frequently while those traveling for business purposes would use taxis due to their willingness to pay for the expensive premiums in order to have a safe and quick arrival to their destinations.


By coming up with a better accessibility method to the airports, there can be a positive change in customers’ preferences to choose the airport, mainly when there are other means of accessing these airports in case one of the means is difficult to use. By including the charges of accessibility on the actual charges of the passengers, there is the likelihood of the reduction in the number of passengers leaving an airport.

It was found that mode share is still not well coordinated in accessing these airports. This was because of certain factors such as lack of consideration of journey time as a factor to consider over other modes. It was also found that there was the need to avoid interchange access to the city center and also that it was important that there was direct access to the city centre from the airports. The study also found that the composition of airport passengers needed to be considered in designing the method of operation and capacity requirements. Particularly, designing the aircrafts to accommodate a large number of business travelers who are more ready to pay high charges and be served quickly. It was also found that there was need to meet local passenger requirements by availing cars or lifts that facilitate their movement to and from the airports.

The proposed methods of operation and their effectiveness

a) Building new Airports and expansion of current facilities

The purpose of this proposal is to ensure there are no traffic problems at the airports. Airports which experience the presence of a high number of travelers are likely to face traffic problems. In order to prevent these problems, new airports should be built in order to meet excess passengers who are unable to travel due to delayed departures. The effective use of the existing facilities ensures that the activities done in these facilities are done effectively in order to reduce wastages and losses of facilities. This results to reduced maintenance costs which are an incentive to get higher profits.

b) Application of technology and innovative practices of operation to make better use of the available facilities

There are technological solutions that can assist in solving scheduling problems such as Intergraph software that can be incorporated into an airport management structure to allow a better efficiency in passenger services resulting to reduced delays. Intergraph is an airport management method that ensures protection and safety when passengers are on the flight, also ensuring safety of infrastructure.

The use of Intergraph also enables automatic operation and intelligence of design. A number of busy airports have tried this method of automatic operation but they have not considered its use to be so vital in operation management. By using this software, airport management personnel can come up with management and planning strategies which ensure that capacity and traffic problems are solved.


The process of understanding the choice to be made during travelling by air is important in determining where improvements need to be made in airports. Some of the most important factors are accessed mode and the choice of the best airport. The method of choosing access mode is still under study, but there are a number of models that have been developed. The misunderstanding is only one of the variables that need to be involved or the manner in which various modes and sub-modes need to be combined. Due to this, one model cannot be transferred to another airport that it was not designed to be used in it.

There should also be care when it comes to change of accessibility of an airport due to the impact it has on the passengers’ preference when choosing the airport. An alteration inaccessibility of one airport can result to considerable consequences on the passengers` preferences particularly when there is another better airport within their access. This requires that charges are also communicated to the passengers in time to prevent misunderstandings.

This paper shows that the problems at London airports are possible to solve. By developing the right ways of using the available facilities, it is possible to meet capacity requirements without incurring extra expenses in the expansion of the current facilities or maintenance of equipment. Traffic problems can also be solved by developing the right approach towards meeting the surging number of passengers.

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