Airport Operations: Aviation sector is growing at a very fast rate. Also, there has been increase demand for air travel. And, this has reiterated the requirement of efficient airport operations to facilitate the travellers and avoid congestion and delays in the air traffic system. The main airports acting as hub for a travel have been affected by congestion at the airports.

It further, has affected the nature of services at the airport and also at times, made it challenging for the Airlines and air traffic service providers to manage the travellers, fleets and the staff (cabin and airport). The mammoth Global growth in aviation sector has brought massive changes in the sector.

And, it is perceived that if only the global fleet of airlines double in two decades, the airport would grow and also its operations. It is projected, that the airport congestion would become three times. Hence, proper management of airside and landside operations in an airport is vital and mandatory. Along with it, the give and take of data between airports, Airlines, planes and air space management has to become a critical aspect (Boeing, 2015). 

Not only global aviation market, but Indian market too, is growing at a phenomenal pace. India is the world’s ninth largest civil aviation market which has grown to a size of about US dollar 16 million and expected to become the third largest aviation market by 2020.Therefore, efficient airport operations are important as they enable smooth and transparent functioning at the airport. In case, if there is some flaw in operations in the airport. This may lead to several problems in air travel such as long queues, delay in flights, lost in baggage, rising cost. Hence, airport operations are very critical  

This may result in wastage of time. The time is just like money in case of airport operations as it may affect the ground handling procedures and also prevents an airline from generating revenues. Air revenues can only be attained if the aircraft is in the air. The global civil aviation sector has shown phenomenal growth. And, it has been on account of many factors such as low cost Carriers, larger aircrafts on long haul flights, increase in air cargo operations, FDI in domestic airlines, modern airports, advancement in information technology and giving more importance to regional and local air connectivity.

Hence, airports and ground service providers need to utilize the resources in the best possible manner, so that the airport copes up with the new arriving trends. Therefore, both staff and equipment should be able to handle the airside and landside operations in a significant way to enhance productivity and limit wastage of resources.

For the various operations done in the airports time and again, SARP’s (Standardized and recommended Practices) have been made a compulsory feature by ICAO at global level and DGCA at the national level to provide excellent services to the various stakeholders. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) looks after the various airports in India and provides air traffic services, aerodrome services and aeronautical services in accordance to the Chicago convention.

Also, to enhance the safety aspects as stated by ICAO, SMS (Supplementary Safety Management Manuals) at each airport. The directorate of operations of Airports Authority of India executes the role of airside Management of Chennai and Trivandrum airports besides the Terminal management of all AAI airports.

1. Terminal Airside Facilities 

The integration amongst the terminal building in airport and a site facility plays an important role to accomplish secure and efficient aircraft operations. Therefore, the terminal planner has to be entirely conscious and stick to exact planning regulations and necessities. Especially, the terminal planner has to take into account the various requirements of the airport complex which comprises airside planning, apron planning and to see the necessities of the aircraft gates requirement at the airport. 

The various airside limitations and tasks which should be part of the site planning of the airport terminal complex are:

The navigable airspace around an airport: When considering the Runway system and also the airports which employ the aircraft instrument approach and departure procedures.

Maneuvering and separations for an aircraft: When passenger terminal configurations are planned, along with aprons, it is important to take into account the maneuvering patterns and aircraft paths which will later help the air terminal complex. Other things which affect the maneuvering of aircraft and operations are number of gates, aircraft type and runway configurations etc.

ATCT (i.e. Air Traffic control Tower): In order to conduct safe aircraft operations, Air traffic control tower should be able to see all the moment areas on the airfield i.e. taxiways, runways and ramps, aircraft parking configuration,  tail heights etc. Also, it is important to have a clear line of sight from the ramp towers, so that air traffic controller is able to see the entry of aircraft into the apron and moving towards luggage gates. In case the ramp tower is not on the airport, then the ATC should be able to see all aircraft ramp areas.

The access roads to emergency equipment: Immediate response time through emergency equipment access roads should be able to facilitate the entry of largest emergency vehicle without an obstacle. Edgemarkers to give visual reference to these access roads which facilitate emergency equipment.

Airside security: consist of all the parts of the airside of an airport, where restrictions for all persons is there. In some airports, this area maybe accessible to passengers and staff who have undergone Security Check.

Aircraft apron/ Gate access points: The aircrafts are admitted to terminal gates through taxiway and taxi Lane system. Hence, there Positioning may be affected by terminal configurations and aircraft configurations. The markings on the apron entrance pavement facilitate the pilots to find the direction and position on the apron.

Aircraft deicing: The aircraft deicing is of two types- decentralized and centralized and prevents accumulation of snow, ice, or even frost on the aircraft. A deicing fluid which is mixture of glycol and water is heated and sprayed under pressure by spraying vehicles at the airport prior to departure of aircraft. As the accumulation of ice or snow on the plane’s wings and rear tail component’s may change the shape of the engineered structure and may prevent in the proper lift required for the flight. 

Electronic interference: In order to prevent, the terminal facilities interference with the navigational aid present at the ground. Computer modeling is used, so that the terminal building and aircraft parking areas do not interfere with the navigational aid’s such as localizer, glide slope, DVOR/DME (Doppler VHF Omnidirectional Range Navigation) or CVOR (Conventional VHF Omnidirectional Navigation), airport surveillance radar (ASR) etc.

A. Terminal Apron Planning Criteria

The analysis of aircraft Gate requirements and the area required for other airside components of terminal complex determine the planning criteria for the terminal apron. The various planning aspects include:

  • The Gates or the parking positions
  • The aircraft wingtip clearances
  • Aircraft parking guidance systems
  • Gradients for apron or apron gradients
  • Apron service roads
  • Taxiways
  • Passenger walkways
  • Aircraft maneuvering area

B. Aircraft gate requirements

Whenever we are planning apron construction or layout in the airport, we need to consider the passenger loading and unloading between the aircraft and the Terminal building. Along with apron, the aircraft gates in the airport are also important. What to use and which type of gate greatly depends on the aircraft traffic that is being managed by the terminal complex and also the local airport situations or conditions.

Aircraft Gates are the remote Gates & and the contact Gates. The remote Gates and the contact Gates are used synonymously, but are different terms. The contact Gates lie at short distance or walking distance from the air terminal or are in direct contact with the passenger loading Bridge which is attached to the air terminal.

The remote stand or the remote Gates are located far away from the terminal and require a transportation mode or bus to transfer the passenger from the terminal to the aircraft. Also, using apron or the loading bridges greatly depend on the level of air service provided by the airport.  That’s why the regional smaller airports use apron for loading and unloading passengers, while the larger commercial airports used the passenger loading Bridges.

2. Terminal building Facilities

The planner’s role in creating airport passenger terminals is very challenging. He has to keep in mind the functionality of the airport along with providing good facilities and services of the highest level to the passengers. While, constructing terminal complex – the size of the building, the budget and the time period available for the project are also very important.

The planners have to be very innovative and practical to create concession spaces for the travellers such as retail stores, shopping, retail shops etc. So, those enough opportunities are created to increase the concessions revenue. The terminals planner has to work minutely and meet out the needs of the airport client’s comma airline travellers, airport staff and other stakeholders. The air terminal should also be able to meet current requirements and future prospects keeping in mind the customer flows, aviation demand and other aspects.

The Terminal planner should be able to deliver the requirements in an air terminal by forming a team with other specialists such as engineers, Architects and professional from various Fields such as security systems baggage handling systems comma people mover system, information technology and ground transportation planning. Whenever, the terminal building facilities are developed, detailed attentions have to be given to all the key stakeholders of the airport.

All the important aspects such as airport master plan, layout plan, land use planning, ground transportation, environmental issues, terminal sites and other strategies have to be considered minutely. Hence, plan at both micro and macro level has to be formulated.

The airport terminal is the main link between the aircraft and ground access system. It comprises the ground access interface linkage, processing of travellers, baggage formalities, document formalities, cargo handling, airport administration, airport operations and airport maintenance etc. The planning of airport Terminal facilities is a very complex job and a lot of factors affect it.

Some of the factors which need to be considered are size of the airport, volume of air traffic, attributes of the passengers, service area of the airport, type of service provided that is domestic and international, type of airline service, airline location and its position, aircraft fleet, population profile of the area, geographic area, degree of commercial activity and obviously what category of passenger, it mostly handles. All these factors are important in formulation of mission of the airport and accordingly a balance has to be maintained between all the elements of the project. 

So, that not only the current demands are met, but at the same time there is a scope and room for further development. Therefore, the airport planning process should maintain equilibrium between airside, terminal building and landside aspects. In order to bring great achievement in terminal planning, design and construction, it is very important to see or consider factors such as budget, size, schedule, level of service (LOS) and quality throughout the project.

Convenience of passengers: While, constructing the different facilities on the airport excellent level of service and convenience of travellers as well as airport staff should be taken into account.  For example, the airport should provide convenience to the passengers. We know that a large number of factors affect the perception of passengers with regard to convenience. Hence, the terminal should have good facilities and ambience, walking distance in the terminal should be kept short and easy and moreover less time should be associated with moving on the terminal.

Flexibility in terminal building: The structures of airport terminal are susceptible to outmodedness. Though, the architects try a lot to give lastingness or permanence to the airport terminal, but they suffer from vulnerability owing to rapid changes in technology, operations, business parameters, new regulatory requirements, pattern of airline demand and airline industry.

It is very difficult to get forward in all the attributes related to an Airport Terminal. But, if some room or flexibility is given to the structure so that some changes can be made to the old structure and the life of the structure can be extended depending on the present demand.

Security: Security is an important expects involved in terminal planning, as it protects the individuals present on the air terminal (i.e. travellers and the airport staff). As, in some large and busy airports high concentrations of populace are easy targets of terror. Enhanced security is accomplished, only when the airport layout and design of the terminal compliments with the airport security plan. All the areas such as parking, taxiways, roadways, mass transit systems etc. should be complemented with the security plan.

Apart, from the plan of security the equipment’s for security such as screening machines, portable checking machines for individual customers or visitors should be of excellent category, so that first-rate level of security is provided at the airports.

Terminal Signage and Path finding: The most important purpose of any airport terminal complex is to permit efficient movement of users on the terminal and movement of vehicles in the roadways or other transportation ways used in and outside the airport.When planning for a terminal complex, primary goal is to make crisscrossing the facilities as untaught (or intuitive) as far as possible for each user. This is known as “intuitive wayfinding”.

Accessibility of airport: accessibility is an important aspect in airport terminal planning. Hence, there should be no discrimination whether normal individuals or persons with disabilities. And, hence every individual should be able to access the various facilities present on the airport terminal. While, designing the airport terminal, the designing of the airport is done in such a way which facilitates the persons with disabilities such as visually impaired, deaf, mobility impaired etc. 

Maintenance: Whenever the airport terminal is designed, its architectural design is made in a way that is easy to maintain later on. Hence comma the structure should be aligned with the maintenance strategy so that it is easy to clean and maintain the building later on. In every airport there are a large number of stakeholders who works in various capacities at various places present in the airport. Hence, it is important to assess their needs & demands and to make spaces to fulfill their needs and simplify their maintenance and operations.

Concept development of terminal: The development of passenger terminal facilities at the airport involve great thinking and design process which combines quantitative facility requirements with comprehensive knowledge of the operations which should be performed on the airside, landside and terminal buildings of the Airport Terminal complex.

  After, the planner have got a thorough understanding about the mission, concept and need of the main stakeholders, he designs the structure accordingly. The Terminal complex should have single centralized processing facility or multiple processing facilities; it all depends on the demand of the passengers, level of aircraft activity level of service required, whether the airport is normal or a Greenfield site etc. 

The centralized Terminal facilities consist of a single consolidated terminal which maximizes passenger processing capacity and eliminates unnecessary facility duplication. In case of decentralized terminal facilities there are multiple unit terminals, which provide various facilities such as building services restrooms, vertical circulation and other structures independently. The decentralized terminal complexes are made in order to fulfill the needs such as different type of airline services, on the basis of domestic or International operation or maybe due to large operations where various terminals may cater to different parts of the world.

  The air terminal may have different terminal facilities requirements which are very necessary for its operation. There may be many facilities and amenities which at present on the airport which may vary due to variations in schedule of airlines, degree of business & leisure travel, short or long haul flights, degree of passenger activity, domestic or international passenger.

The various terminal facilities or counters present on the airport are:

  • Check in facilities
  • Airport information centres
  • Wi-Fi and telecommunication services
  • Phone or computer recharge in stations
  • Wheelchair provision or storage for disable persons
  • Electric passenger carts
  • Passenger luggage trolleys v Baggage handling systems
  • Alternative electrical power arrangements for security, Communications, operations and emergency systems
  • Security lighting system both inside and outside of the airport

3. Terminal landside facility

  The operations at the terminal landside facility are guided by the presence of number of passenger arrivals and departures and the cargo activity if present on the terminal. The traffic operations of the landside facilities, apart from the peaking characteristics depend on a number of things:

  • The vehicle speed on the airport Roadways is very slow then peripheral roadways.
  • Different types of vehicles transfers Roadways on the airport.
  • Complex routings present on the airport and multiple ways to navigate the roadway system.
  • The roadway layout in the airport may vary from airport to airport.
  • There are large number of merge/diverge points & hence drivers have to take decisions at very short distances.
  • In many cases, the drivers do occasional visits to facility, are confused, so move at slow speeds.
  • The ground access systems inside the airports are complex interrelated facilities and hence require detailed planning, analysis and evaluation of the current facilities present at the airport.

The intermodal connections present on the airport are of two types. The first type comprises the local or regional rail or bus system and the second one comprises the rail or bus system present on the airport. In some cases mass transit systems also help in transportation inside the terminal and provide access to the airport, Terminal and concession employees.

A large number of airport roadway systems are present on the airport such as exit Roadways, terminal approach roads, terminal curb front, recirculation roads, service roads etc. Also, the terminal curb front of an airport is a highly complex operating area which allows the vehicles to load and unload passengers and luggage and then merger a way to the main traffic Road. This curb front area of the terminal landside area of the airport can be divided into two types that is pedestrian facilities and vehicle facilities.

Parking facilities are also present on the landside area of the airport and it provides facilities to a number of users such as traveler’s, employees, tenants and rental cars. Broadly there are five types of parking facilities passengers which depend upon the demand for parking.

  • Terminal parking is the close in parking facility and the most convenient parking facility for the passengers. It provides short term as well as long term parking facility. 
  • Remote parking facilities remain at distance from the airport facility and generally provide parking facility for long term. They also require on Airport transit capabilities to carry passengers from parking to Terminal and vice versa. The remote parking charges are less than the terminal parking.
  • Off airport parking facilities are same as the remote parking facilities but are present outside the airport property and are generally handled by private operators.
  • Valid parking facilities are provided at large number of airports for the departing passengers who leave their vehicles parked at the curbfront all in terminal parking lots.
  • Cell phone lots are very useful in reducing traffic congestions as they are present along the entrance road to the terminal, where he/she can wait for a call from passenger & come as soon as he calls him/her.

Also read Profile of Cabin Crew or Airline Cabin Staff