Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Only good news make it to the top

Every manager knows that there are processes of selective filtration which occur in information transmission in organizational hierarchies. In other words, good news travel in lightning speed, bad news are filtered out. In fact, in my experience, they are filtered out only until an underlying problem eventually escalates.

I am not an expert on organizational behavior. Research indicates that interpersonal factors like subordinate's trust in his superior, subordinate's perception of his superior's influence on his career and subordinate's career aspirations are factors influencing the upward communication. The first one seems to be most important.

I am sure we need to work on the trust thing. At the same time we need to make sure that management has access to action-relevant operational information in due time in a simple and straight-forward format. You will now shout 'dashboard' but be aware, dashboards tend to be either over-simplistic or too complicated. The trick might be a good mix of relevant performance indicators in a dashboard format with a filter on what is important and drill-down possibility.

In a later post I plan to write about dashboards, the difference of dashboards to scorecards and why you should not ask managers i.e. users what they should look like. Well, at least not in the beginning.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Get rid of long airport lines

I like the idea of either measuring queues or tracking passengers throughout the airport to monitor and respond to queues in real time, manage service levels and improve management of the terminals. This is to ensure that passengers have more time to spend in restaurants, bars and shops, as well as improve the overall passenger experience.

Let's take an example. You can check the queues and queuing times at security checkpoints or immigration in real time and allocate extra staff if queues are growing and reducing those working if the numbers of passengers waiting are low.

A few thoughts here. What if the staff at security checkpoints or immigration is not yours to control? Having read my blog you will know that I believe in the power of transparency. How can we make sure that passengers do not queue up in the first place? What about the static and dynamic information you provide to the passengers; they will always have an impact on passenger flows.

My point is, managing queues is (again) not about technology only. It is also about a cunning concept, smooth processes, engaged stakeholders and last but not least performance and responsibility again.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Untapped revenue source for airports: information services

Nearly every airport has grown to depend upon the income generated from non-aeronautical means. With the sector in recovery mode, this is the perfect timing to revise the current strategies and help the airport business improve its revenue sources.

What about selling airport information? I understand that if an airport does not have such a business model as part of the concession with its airport users (airlines, ground handlers, etc.), it will be difficult to provide such a chargeable service.

However, it might be of great benefit for airlines, for instance, for them to control/monitor the service levels of their ground handlers (e.g. bag delivery times). They might be willing to pay a premium for access to such operational information without having to force them as part of the concession.

In my observation, an integrated Staff Information System (SIS) with flexible and scalable features can be can be sold to airport users at remarkable fees.
Yet, its client deployment must be simple and access must be secure. No specific hardware or software must be required to access. All content must be filtered and easily adapted to users and roles by authorized users. The data must always up to date without the need to refresh them, even be available offline. The communication between server and client must be very lean and secure and not to require a lot of bandwidth.

You would be astonished how much revenue can be generated from selling access to such a SIS, to airport information in fact.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Johannesburg airport handles biggest ever swell of visitors

Most football fans visiting South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup are expected to use OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA). In less than 50 days, the airport will serve as the gateway to South Africa for hundreds of thousands of 2010 FIFA World Cup fans and millions of future tourists. ACSA has upgraded facilities but has also invested in organisation and technologies to ensure great passenger experience.

I believe that an airport shows its competence in handling irregularities and events like the 2010 FIFA World Cup. A short glimpse at the current performance at ORTIA shows that the airport has managed to keep their on-time departures at a constant high level event though they currently serve about double the passengers per day compared to normal operation. A true mastery.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Measurable benefits of airport CDM

I came across a discussion in LinkedIn about issues you might face when implementing airport collaborative decision making (CDM). One of the issues mentioned was: "Airport stakeholders are not always fully aware of the costs and benefits that CDM brings. These benefits are hard to be proven at airports which operate below their maximum capacity levels."

I am convinced the benefits can be proven, even if airside (apron, taxi, runway, airspace) is not a bottleneck to an airport.

Firstly, it depends on what the objectives of CDM are and whether they are tangible. A target which says that TOBT and EOBT should be more accurate and reliable does not, in my opinion, add value to the operation but to the ANSP. Secondly, you will have operational peaks with capacity issues and which must be managed well, because that is where most value is added (or destroyed). Thirdly, there are metrics available which measure the benefit of less delays and more efficient processes for every stakeholder. How open is the industry and governmental organizations ready to adopt best practice?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Who should manage the airport operation?

I thought about starting a poll to ask who should be responsible for the airport operation. Suppose at a hub airport, should it be the airport operator or the hub carrier? Irrespective of the fact that a strong hub carrier will insist on being number one at the airport, operational decisions should not only be driven by the hub carrier. There are other airlines with interests which need to be catered, just look at stand allocation, for instance. And, decisions should be made value-based, creating the most value for the entire operation.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Accuracy of delay codes

Some airports call delay codes "lie codes". It is obvious that ground handlers will, in doubt, blame anybody else for delays because they may have service level agreements with their airlines. I have even come across airport where airlines insist on adjusting the off-blocks time so that they do not have to report a bad on-time performance to their headquarter.

How can this be changed i.e. improved? My little plan would include
- Accountability
- Transparency
- Standardization
- Governance
- System Integration

Accountability: Each delay code (with subcode) has an owner or responsible organization and the delay code assignment process is clear and in place (assign, accept, reject, handling of disputes, final call).

Transparency: The assignment and the on-time performance of each organization is transparent to everybody.

Standardization: There is only one definition of delay codes and delays across the airport based on IATA standard, incorporated in the Airport Handling Manual (AHM). Any non-conformance e.g. different reporting from an airline to its head office will be brought forward to the Governance Forum.

Governance: The Punctuality Board, chaired by the Airport's Punctuality Manager, with delegates from handling agents and airlines proposes and tracks action plans on punctuality. They define punctuality targets broken down to each stakeholder.

System Integration: Delay codes and delays are captured or integrated into one system. That system should also allow to automatically track issues of a flight which could have caused the delay in case of disputes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Attract more transfer passengers

What is the secret to attract more transfer passengers from an airport point of view? The answer depends on whom you ask. Retailers they will tell you how important a great shopping, food&drinks, and entertainment experience is. Architects will insist on great terminals. Operations will tell you that it is about minimum connection time, short walks, and in particular bag processing. The latter being important because frequent travelers have blacklists of airports they avoid if they can.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Get passenger figures from airlines

You come across airports which say they are happy that they get the passenger numbers the next day. One airport thought this was real time. Another airport said they would have that data only up to 6 days after departure. This might be sufficient for billing purposes, but is it for operation?

I was not sure whether I should write about this in a blog. It is a delicate topic. Many airports strive for accurate passenger figures for billing purposes. And nowadays they would like to have booked and expected passenger numbers in order to plan and schedule resources accordingly.

You can imagine how tricky it is to get booked passenger figures from airlines when they are not even willing to share actual passenger numbers. There are a few options to get those data which are different for each airport. But, in my experience, even though it may take some time, you can get them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

When boarding starts late

I am sure it happened to you. You are waiting at the gate and nothing happens after the time indicated on your boarding pass has passed by, meaning, boarding has not started yet. You ask yourself, am I at the right gate, will the flight leave on time, should I ask the staff at the gate, does anybody care about this at all?

Even though you might say that it is the Ground Handler's responsibility, contracted by your airline, an Airport Operator should be highly interested in measuring this because it is an important part of the Passenger Experience and step for on-time departures.