Why airports sit on a pile of interesting unused data?

By Jean Luc Devisscher
17th March, 2022

Talking to an airport recently I noticed that in a lot of cases airports are still focused on mortar and bricks. Everything that is hardware and can be touched still gets a priority.

Now to be honest without a decent airside you cannot accommodate planes efficiently and without a great terminal infrastructure, travelers will not spend any money on food and shopping and thus not generate the extra income needed.

But many airports just stop at that.

They often don’t have a clue about the performance of the many providers at their airports. Not because they don’t care, just because it is not in their focus. But knowing is key creating a smart airport set-up, one that uses data to understand where investment decisions or organizational changes make the most sense.

Data comes in many ways. How much time is lost waiting for luggage? Why did certain planes not leave on time? How much time did passengers have to wait to leave the plane? Why did we guide a plane to the wrong gate? How was information critical for fueling not shared and so much more? To run an airport, you need to have access to all the data that impacts airport operations and understand why certain things take too much time and are causing delays to the other stakeholders.

Data is an ideal way to understand the real situation at an airport, measure the right KPI’s to see where efficiency gains can be made and understand what is not working and what should be done differently.

A lot of airports have implemented a data analytics strategy but the question remains whether we are measuring the right elements, to what are we comparing what we measure and how do we make companies and people accountable for their actions which have an impact on an entire chain of events.

So, key to an airport business as in every business is:

  • What is the key data we need to be able to evaluate the performance of an airport
  • Where can we get this key data
  • What format do we get the data in and how to interpret it
  • How can we make sense of all the data that is brought together
  • How should we adapt airport operations so we get a clear view of every step made in the process and how we perform
  • How to reunite all stakeholders to have common KPI’s where all are measured and evaluated against
  • How to change ConOps to reflect how stakeholders work together and use the KPI data

Getting the right data to make key decisions is one thing, understanding how we can use the data and make it actionable and visible for all is another one. On top of that, you need to be able to let users modify inputs on the go as – and all Operations Managers and COO’s will confirm - things change during a day which necessitates the data to be modified by the key user throughout the hours of operations.

So, once we determined what data we need, how to use it and how to make sure it reflects the real- time situation we need to make it available centrally using a Dashboard that reflects all the latest elements usable by all stakeholders and airport management. We need to have a full view on how the airport is doing and where actions need to be taken to guarantee efficient operations.

Stakeholder management is a clear priority, without having clear working agreements - which include common KPI’s - between all parties involved, you cannot improve operations.

So, it’s all about data sharing, what you do with the data, how you can make it actionable, stakeholder management and updated procedures or ConOps.

When choosing ways to substantially improve airport operations, data is the keyword, understanding data, knowing how to use it and making it visible for all stakeholders is key.

At EMMA Systems we help make airports sense of the key data they need, how they can use it, how they can show it in a common dashboard, use it for audit trails and how to adapt ConOps to make it reflect better the current stakeholder management set-up and all common KPI’s every stakeholder agreed to achieve. Check out emma.aero to understand how we make sense of data and how by doing so we can make airport operations predictable.