Airport operation can be a very complex task within the aviation industry. An airport is not only a group of aircraft taking off and landing on a runway. It is much more than that. It generally consists of an aerodrome with expanded facilities, mainly for commercial air transportation. Also, most airports have parking and maintenance buildings and a control tower.
Larger airports may have multiple terminals, aprons, taxiway bridges, airport security centers, and passenger facilities like restaurants and lounges. In addition, many vehicles, apart from those in the air, will be circulating around the airfield. And making sure all these operate smoothly and in sync is a challenge. Moreover, air operations involve an extreme complexity with a system of aircraft support, services for the passenger, and aircraft control services incorporated into the operation.
If all the above is not enough, add that airports are hubs of operation for heavy equipment, so a range of regulations and safety measures have been implemented to reduce accidents, and operators need to deal with them too. Last but not least, they are also vulnerable to infrastructure issues under extreme circumstances, such as rising sea levels due to climate change and other environmental disasters. So, it is clear that there are many challenges in airport operations, but what are airport operations?
What are airport operations?
In short, airport operations are all the processes involved to make the airport experience for all people as smooth as possible. The final goal of the top airport operations in the aviation industry is to provide a seamless travel experience for the passenger by interconnecting their operations to be optimally efficient, cost-effective, safe, and customer-oriented.
There is a lot an operator needs to take care of. This is why most operators decide to look for help and hire third-party services to support them with some of their duties. Organizations that provide airport operations services usually offer customer support, Transportation Security Administration compliance and other security solutions, gate operations, flight information display systems, resources management, and turnaround management, among other services. Therefore, we can assume these processes are at the core of airport operations.
What are common airport operations?
Airport operations are commonly classified into 4 different areas. Ground operations, airside operations, billing and invoicing, and information management areas. As mentioned before, all of them need to work in synchrony to make sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. To better understand the most common airport operations and how they are connected, let’s dive into the details of each one of these areas.
As the name suggests, this term refers to the operations taking place when passengers and airplanes are on the ground. These are perhaps the most customer-oriented operations since they look after the daily operations inside the terminals and the parking areas, which is why they are often called terminal operations.
However, they are not limited to terminals. Other ground operations include:
Guaranteeing airport security and a safe customer experience.
Taking care of the halls.
Maintaining roadways within the airport grounds.
Overseeing properties surrounding the airport.
Ground operations require understanding the customers’ needs and implementing tools to make their experience a better one. Of course, the security of the passengers and the employees is among the top priorities of ground operations.
Airside operations refer to the direct supervision of the airfield and the airspace. Two major groups are working for these operations: ground crew and air traffic control.
The ground crew is a group that involves those in charge of directing vehicles or carrying out duties in the landing area. This group makes sure the entire airfield operates as efficiently as possible. The main tasks include, but are not limited to:
Responding to airfield incidents, accidents, and emergencies.
Day-to-day management of wildlife to reduce the risk of bird interference on aircraft.
Air traffic control
Control towers and air traffic controllers essentially form this group. This group is mainly responsible for airspace safety management and controlling how air traffic flows. Common duties are:
Direct communication with pilots to pass critical information for the flight, like weather conditions and runway usage.
Flight route changes when extreme weather or other issues are identified in the planned route.
Controlling takeoff and landing permissions.
Billing and invoicing
Billing and invoicing is an area of airport operations that is not usually visible to the public, but it has a lot to do with aircraft being in the air. It deals with both aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue. Advanced accounting systems are generally in place to control flight bills and handle invoices, cash, and sales within the airport, like points-of-sales and staff payrolls, among other aspects of airport finance.
Although this seems to be an aspect that does not involve the general public, the truth is that it directly affects the airport customers, which are the airlines and other third parties offering their services, and it also affects the passenger experience. Having a transparent billing and invoice system allows airlines to better plan their airplane availability according to the associated costs, resulting in a better and broader offer for the passenger to fly to the desired destination.
Information management is directly connected to the second aspect in this list, as it is responsible for collecting and distributing daily flight information. Typical information management duties include storing seasonal and arrival/departure information and keeping track of the connection with airlines. This department is integral to the timeliness of flight arrivals and departures and the organization of the flight schedule.
Another critical task of information management is keeping the information readily accessible to the passengers. This allows for a reduction in missed flights.
Why are airport operations important?
Every part of an airport’s entire operational life makes a significant impact on the airport experience of any passenger. Malfunctioning airport operations could cause delays with no security clearances and overall chaos. It will also see aircraft security, passengers, and employees compromised. Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating field to understand its importance better.
Airports are widely known as smaller cities inside the city where they are located. And this makes total sense, considering that airlines, ground support crews, and other third parties coexist within the airport community. With this in mind, any airport operation needs to be able to work independently but also understand that they are not entirely autonomous, they are part of the community.
This means that decisions need to be made under specific rules or standards. And these standards must be provided by the airport operator to all the airport operations stakeholders. So, it is the responsibility of the airport operations to make sure that everything runs smoothly and without any significant issues. Keep in mind that it is not only the comfort at stake but also the safety of all the people who make a living in the airport community.
Importance beyond passenger traffic
Airport operations have an impact beyond the airport community. They also affect the areas surrounding the airport. According to law, people living near an airport that is not operated correctly can request compensation for damages if the airport operations create any inconvenience for them. And they can even take the case to court and try to have operations suspended.
In other words, airport operations are essential for a city to see people and goods come and go and for the city’s general development and prosperity.
Summarize of Airport operation
Finding a job and launching your career in any area of airport operations may be very rewarding. However, keep in mind that having the proper training is necessary. You may need to learn about federal law and other federal regulations usually imposed by the federal government on any private or public airport. The federal government impacts the steps before an airport is built with its zoning laws, but also on other aspects that are essential for the aerospace industry, like safety.
Public administration provides the legislation that airports must adhere to, emphasizing security and safety management. And most jobs in the aviation industry require knowledge of that legislation. Whether you work in aircraft maintenance, as the airplane cabin crew, or any other aircraft-related duties, you should have these legal aspects clear.
So, if you want to understand airport operations better, especially how the flow process that will safely allow passengers to leave or arrive by aircraft and the legal aspects mentioned above, Aeroclass has got your back, check out the understanding airport operations course, which is one of the most comprehensive you will find across the aviation industry.
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