Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The problem with early flight arrivals

Some of the most common of the aggravations affecting air travelers is a flight delay or a cancellation. An early arrival of the inbound aircraft of their respective outbound flight is good news. It increases their chances of a timely departure. Not so good for the arriving passengers though if the ground staff is not ready yet. Which happened quite often to me - no one there to operate the air bridge or no one there to open the door from the air bridge to the terminal.

Not so good news for the airport as well, because early arrivals can be a disruption just like late arrivals.

Usually, airports plan for 15 minute buffers in their resource allocation (stands, gates). Fifteen minutes before Scheduled Time of Arrival (STA) and after. Sure, an early arrival helps when the airport endeavors short turnaround times. But if a flight arrives earlier then the planned buffer, it means that the airport has to cater for costly reserve capacities. Furthermore, there will be many changes affecting the operation.

What can an airport do against this? They can demand slot adherence, or the airline(s) will loose that slot and/or tell them that there will be no stand available. In a collaborative manner, of course, the airport will first approach them, raise the problem and discuss joint measures.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why it is counterproductive to let passengers know how long waiting lines are

People say that knowledge is power. The more knowledge, the more power. Suppose you knew the winning numbers for the lottery?  What would you do? You would run to the store and mark those numbers on the play card. And you would win.

Same for airports? Suppose you knew the waiting time at checkpoints like at Dulles International Airport. What would you do? Experience shows that when there is not much waiting time passengers tend to dwell and get to the checkpoint later. Which may create a problem later. It also shows that when there is long waiting time passengers tend to go to the checkpoint immediately. Which increases the problem now.

I think that airports should endeavor to steer the passengers indirectly based on the information they have. They may wait to announce gates until they see that there is capacity at checkpoints. They may change gates of arriving flights or bring passengers to other arrival halls.

Airport business is full of decisions and judgements and guesses, and also looking outside of the box.