How to solve specific capacity problems at an airport

By Alain Urbeltz - Airports Product Manager May 2018

At level 2 and 3 airports (scheduled and coordinated airports), it is common for the airport operator to deal with capacity problems which are aggravated at certain seasons of the year and at certain times of the day. This circumstance manifests itself in the form of widespread delays, given that when a congested airport needs to change its flight schedule, relocating it within the planned timetable causes many others to be affected.

To prevent flight delays, it is essential to comply with the Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for airport slots management. Read about some additional complementary solutions to solve specific capacity problems at airports. 

Airport capacity: limiting resources

Determining the capacity of an airport is a complex issue, as it is the location of several operations interacting within the same infrastructure:

  • Aeroplanes in the process of landing, take-off or turnaround
  • Luggage and passenger flow inside the facilities
  • Connections with metro, train or surrounding networks
  • Traffic of vehicles that enter by roads such as private cars, taxis or buses

In general, the airport capacity is measured in terms of the system with the greatest constraints. Normally, this will be a strictly aeronautical field and within it, the landing strips. Consequently, the overall capacity of the airport will be calculated based on the number of activities per hour that the airport is able to assume.


Options for punctually increasing airport capacity

In situations of congestion, it is possible to apply certain measures to increase airport capacity in a timely manner, as highlighted in a study of the Mexican Institute of Transport by Alfonso Herrera García (only available in Spanish). Ultimately, these measures will be aimed at clearing the transit area of aeroplanes and landing strips, so as to achieve fluidity in aeronautical operations.

a) Demand reduction within airport infrastructure

First, we can focus on diverting certain operations to enclaves outside the airport in order to reduce the demand for airport infrastructure. Some options are:

  • The processing of passengers outside the airport, for example at train, bus or subway stations.
  • The location of aeroplanes in remote locations, connected to the terminal buildings by buses.
  • The transfer to nearby airports of certain types of flights or some airlines.

b) Redistribution of slots to alleviate peak hours

A common phenomenon at many airports is the concentration of activities at peak times. To alleviate these peaks of activity you can work on the redistribution of slots, either through agreements with Airlines, or a decision by the airport administration.

c) Optimisation of the use of airport facilities with technological support

Increasing airport capacity is also within our reach through the implementation of operational or technological innovations. Some proposals along this line are:

  • Integrating air and rail services, ensuring that baggage check-in and collection takes place directly at train stations.
  • Implementing independent landing strips that can accommodate both the take-off and landing of aeroplanes, instead of using segregated airstrips (some only for take-off and others only for landing).
  • Using technological solutions for slots management such as Ikusi's Condor, capable of planning and monitoring compliance with slots in real time, detecting capacity problems at the airport and identifying the limiting resource that is causing them. Condor assists the airport manager in making decisions and integrates with Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) systems for better air traffic planning.