New Airport Insider

New Airport Insider is an online magazine for forward thinking airport professionals and engineers. Led by a team of experienced airport professionals, New Airport Insider offers insights into the most relevant airport issues, emerging technologies, trends, and companies, and the opportunities that they create for airports.

Open Skies: An Update

Open Skies

In April 2015, I wrote about the fight brewing in the U.S. between the three major international air carriers (American, Delta and United) and the three Gulf carriers (Qatar, Emirates and Etihad).

My thesis was that this was part of a strategy to get better treatment from the U.S. government in a variety of areas, and to attain a favorable outcome during consideration in the US Congress of legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (the legislation includes many of the taxes and fees airlines and their passengers must pay).  While there were some wild statements from both sides, I believed this was a more limited strategy. And if you read, for example, the speech given by Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio at the International Aviation Club in Washington last Fall, there is much evidence for that.

What Has Happened Since?

In my view, the US airlines have taken a strategy that was plausible and pretty well considered and made a hash of it.  They began to believe their own rhetoric, a cardinal sin of such campaigns.  The fact that several major European carriers joined in just spooled them up further.  They made new enemies along the way including the cargo carriers and some of the other passenger carriers and they even questioned the motives and integrity of some of the individuals involved (another cardinal sin, don’t make new enemies along the way and don’t make it personal).  They also failed to understand that in the rapidly changing Middle East, their issues would pale in comparison to Iran and ISIS (as Benjamin Disraeli once said, “a leader must know himself and the times in which he lives.”  (The airlines made the cardinal sin of forgetting this).

The more attention they got, the more they overplayed their hand.  And now, with the Justice Department opening an investigation into their pricing and capacity practices, the going has gotten a whole lot harder.  (Though I am not sure how much there is to these allegations).

The US airlines were, in fact, gaining some traction with their arguments.  As a tactic in an overall strategy to get what they saw as better treatment from the government and Congress, their plan was starting to work.  

But just as it was starting to work, they overplayed their hand and committed three cardinal sins of such campaigns. They:

  • Began to believe their own rhetoric.
  • Made it personal and started to make enemies.
  • Forgot the larger context.

It is not too late for them to realize this and change tactics.

But there is little in the history of such fights to lead me to believe this will happen.

open skiesEditor’s Note – New Airport Insider will not publish in August due to the summer break so we take this opportunity to wish you and your family a great summer holiday. See you back here in September with another great article! – Jinan

Image credits: FokkerAms via Flickr, Umbrella by Neloqua via Flickr

Open Skies: An Invite to Complain or Compete!

U.S Open Skies

Today, we welcome Nadine Itani, a new guest contributor who writes an opinion post about open skies. 

Gulf carriers, such as Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways, have expanded enormously and have established an intense global competitive network. These carriers’ future growth prospects depend on their ability to gain access to markets in Europe and America. Existing bilateral air agreements and the US incumbent carriers lobby hamper the Gulf carriers’ expansion plans through restricting market access.

US Carriers to US Government: Reform Open Skies

Competition between Gulf carriers and the ageing big international US carriers has broken out in the open again in recent months, with US carriers filing a claim to the US administration that the Gulf airlines are not playing fair and are endangering US air carriers’ sustainability and threatening US aviation employment opportunities.

In March of this year, the three major US carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines made public the document that supposedly claims their Gulf competitors are operating successfully due to more than $40 billion subsidies from their governments.

Related article by Greg Principato: Open Skies: What U.S. Airlines Really Want

The big three US carriers confirm that they support “open skies” but they simply believe that the competition with Gulf carriers is not being “fair”.

A Compelling Argument?

Reading between the lines of the US carrier CEOs press conference reveals the real incentive behind this peculiar campaign. When the three biggest international US carriers unite and get the support of their union groups, then one should look up for the true story.

First, protecting jobs is a sound case to defend, but isn’t it the same as competition, and shall be defended reasonably through a solid argument?

Second, why did the US carriers spend too much time (2 years) to produce the document that contains the super “breakthrough” financial data of the Gulf carriers? Unfair competition is a crucial accusation, when a party owns evidence against its rivals; it shall be promptly taken to court. And, if the findings were so harmful, why was this report not announced publicly earlier, instead of exchanging confidential papers around the White House and US Government agencies?

Third is on the perspective of subsidy. It is generally known that subsidy is a sum of money granted by the state to help an industry or business keeps the price of a commodity or service low. The problem is that what US carriers fight against under the name of subsidies is being practiced in the US under Chapter 11. Chapter 11 is a “one of a kind” exit plan that allows US airlines passing through critical financial situations to hold off its credit payments, get rid of debts and embark in a restructuring process. International observers define Chapter 11 as a subsidy, while US carriers insist that it is not. As a personal opinion, how you explain subsidy is insignificant, and allowing it when it suits the US context while suing international competitors for it is a huge sin. If Chapter 11 and antitrust immunity systems are not to be considered facilitating any form of subsidy, then what explains the huge investments of American Airlines (the world’s largest carrier) in new fleet and products while the carrier has just came out fresh of “bankruptcy protection”.

Gulf Carriers Defend Position

The leaders of the big three Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways already responded to these allegations. Tim Clark, president of Emirates Group said:

We are not here to take down other airlines, and Emirates contributes to the U.S. economy, through the aircraft orders.

referring to the 150 jets from Boeing in 2013, which represents the most valuable aircraft order ever made. While Danny Sebright the US-UAE Business Council president stated:

The Big 3 US carriers may first want to check their own balance sheets. Since 2006, they transferred billions of dollars of pension liabilities directly to US government while leaving creditors holding the bag for billions more through multiple bankruptcies. They received billions in cash payments and guaranteed loans in a direct government bailout while enjoying the advantages of antitrust immunity to fix transatlantic fares with their European partners.

As Tim Clark promised a “robust, fact based, point-by-point rebuttal” of the charges, he delivered on 30 June in Washington, a hard-hitting document to answer the claims laid against his airline (and against Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways) by the US carriers. The document – entitled “Emirates’ response to claims raised about state-owned airlines in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates” – runs to nearly 400 pages and it has been prepared by an in-house team at Emirates led by Clark himself and advised by lawyers, financial consultants and industry experts.

Until today, US airlines don’t seem to have a compelling case, and it is unclear whether their claims are real about subsidies threatening their ability to compete vigorously and fairly on the international stage.

US airlines should simply “stop complaining and start competing!”

More Related Articles
Rebuttal of the Emirates to US accusations
Emirates’ response to US open skies claims – allegation by allegation
Emirates CEO Tim Clark Blasts Big Three U.S. Airlines, Especially Delta — Since ‘Delta is Delta’
Competition from Middle Eastern carriers may mean lower fares to Europe, Middle East

Image credit: Vitor Azevedo

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How to Manage Risks with Chronic Unease

Chronic Unease

Editor’s Note: A warm welcome to Laura Fruhen who joins us from Australia sharing research on how chronic unease can be used to support safety management in aviation.

Chronic Unease – A State of Mind to Manage (Safety) Risks

When making everyday decisions, we rarely have all the information available. Sometimes, we deal with ambiguous information, so we may rely on assumptions. When managing safety, making sense of unclear and ambiguous information can be critical.

In this blog post, I will discuss chronic unease as a mindset that can support managers in dealing with vague and unclear information in their decision-making.

To Be Wary Is To Be Ready for the Unexpected

Some safety issues present themselves clearly. These are often issues that researchers classify as personal safety (i.e. Do workers use the right personal protective equipment?). Other safety issues can be hard to spot and equally hard to pin down. For example issues that are embedded in the processes of operations and can be visualized by Reason’s (1997) Swiss cheese. They are the holes that might be hiding in each slice of cheese (i.e. barrier).

Some organisations, such as those in the aviation sector, operate in risky contexts and are extremely capable of maintaining their safety barriers, assessing the state of their safety processes, and ensuring the holes in their barriers do not align. They are highly vigilant to weak signals of potential risks. These high reliability organisations (HROs) share certain characteristics that make their risk management so successful as they:

  • Evaluate the absence of surprises as a reason for anxiety, not complacency
  • Assume that they might not fully comprehend the complex systems that they operate and are preoccupied with failure
  • Adopt a many-angled approach of constant improvement towards safety issues

Managing Risks

Organisations don’t always manage risks collectively and it often comes down to the individual decision-maker to determine how to solve a problem or a way to go forward. In fact, organisations are in many ways systems of decision makers.

These decision makers, both individually and collectively, are potential hole-makers as well as hole-fixers in the cheese slices that keep organisations safe. The figure below illustrates the impact that managers can have on many of these barriers through the decisions that they make.

Managing risk with chronic unease

Decisions are usually made based on information. The quality of any decision then depends on the information that it is based on – and the skills, knowledge, ability and intuition of the person making the decision.

As humans, we are usually confident in our attention and our ability to notice changes in the environment and to identify (weak) signals of risk. However, the reality is that our attention is very selective and we often use mental shortcuts (called heuristics) to simplify complex problems.

Humans, while confident about their information processing abilities, are in actuality not that great at dealing with ambiguous and complex information. This video nicely illustrates some of the limitations of our attention.

In an organisational context, it can be hard to immediately identify the effects that decisions might have on operations. Similarly, it can be tricky to notice what relevant signals present themselves in the environment and which decisions are the right ones in more and more complex contexts, organisations and operations.

The Uneasy Manager

In our research, Prof. Rhona Flin and I have investigated unease and how it can support managers in their work, particularly in overcoming ambiguity and complexity in information and the environment. Unease has been highlighted as an attribute of managers in highly reliable organisations.

Chronic unease refers to the experience of discomfort and concern about the management of risks. It is a healthy skepticism about one’s own decisions and the risks that are inherent in many complex and risky environments. Ultimately, it is the gut feeling that occurs when we are not quite confident in our decisions and our assessment of what is going on. For example, imagine you are an air traffic management supervisor and your employees tell you the following:

“Yesterday we broke the record for the number of arrivals in one hour”.

How do you react? Do you congratulate them? Or do you think about the pressure they may have put on the system? Do you consider the potential risks that could have degraded barriers by operating with higher levels of traffic? Do you worry about the extent to which the ATCOs (Air Traffic Controllers) might have been putting unnecessary pressure on themselves to cope with high traffic loads? Do you worry whether they focus too much on traffic throughput rather than on safety?

What about if your employees tell you the following:

“The met forecast is often inaccurate so we don’t restrict inbounds until the actual visibility falls”

What would your response be? Do you wonder about possible inbound overload due to reduced visibility? Are you concerned about how diversions are being handled? Do you reflect on where to hold inbounds and how to inform ACC (Area Control Centre) to reduce speed of next arrivals? Are you concerned about the safety implications of a forecast that is inaccurate? Are you wondering for how long this practice may have been going on? Do you worry about the reasons why you had not known about this before? Would this even keep you up at night?

Your intuitive reaction to safety issues such as the ones above can help filter attention to the issues that are most critical and focus further investigation of what might actually be going on. This intuition is often derived from experience.

This form of thinking can be particularly helpful when risk related information is ambiguous (that is, it allows for different interpretations or conflicting meanings) or unclear (where not enough is known). You can think of your intuitive reaction to safety issues as an additional piece of (highly subjective) information that you can consider to make sense of the issues that present themselves and where to focus your attention.

Why Some Managers May Be More Uneasy Than Others

Some managers might be more uneasy than others. Similarly, others might experience unease, but might not refer to it as readily in their work as a source of information. So what are the characteristics of managers that might affect these tendencies?

We have identified five characteristics that are likely to be linked to the managerial experience of unease (see Figure below).

Safety management and chronic unease

We proposed that vigilance and experience will shape the extent to which managers notice (weak) signals of risks. Further, we identified that safety imagination (also labelled requisite imagination by Westrum, 1991), the managers’ propensity to worry, and their pessimism (which includes a negative outlook as well as a tendency to resist complacency) can affect the level of unease that a manager is likely to experience in response to the risks they perceive.

How to Channel Unease to Support Safety Management

Experiencing unease is only a starting point. The important question is what to do with it. Just being uneasy in itself will not help managers in their management of risks, in fact it might make them less effective. The trick is to transfer it into useful actions that can lead to better risk management.

We found that unease manifests itself in many ways in managers. That included behaviours that the safety literature has identified as having a positive effect on safety. These included:

  • Being inspirational
  • Asking for input from employees
  • Setting clear goals
  • Providing rewards
  • Making safety a priority

However, the most prevalent issue we recognised was the extent to which managers tend to channel their unease into flexible thinking.

Flexible Thinking

Flexible thinking is the tendency to approach safety-related issues from many angles, to think about them critically and to question assumptions. Individuals who are chronically uneasy about safety-related issues are more likely to engage in flexible thinking. Doing so helps them to better solve safety-related problems, and encourage this type of thinking in their colleagues. Flexible thinking can for example entail:

  • Not jumping to conclusions
  • Avoiding standard answers as to why issues occur
  • Exploring new problems with a fresh look, while building on experience
  • Considering all sources of data and information, and identifying whether more data and information is needed
  • Critically examining the issues that are behind the situation
  • Considering each issue on its own, but also the interconnections between issues

How Much Unease is Healthy?

In our reflections about unease, we reasoned that there is likely to be an optimal, or healthy level of unease for each manager.

Too little unease might lead to complacency, so that warning signals are ignored, ambiguities are marginalised, and adverse consequences are not considered.

On the other side of the spectrum, too much unease might lead to the experience of anxiety, affecting decision making, action and over the long run, (mental) health.

The trick will be for each manager to reflect about the ways in which they react to risks, to use this as a source of information and channel it into behaviours as well as information processing strategies that are going to have a positive impact on safety.

So the next time, when that vague sense of unease sneaks up on you, don’t dismiss it. Maybe the ways in which it can be put to use described here can help you to harness it so that it can support you in managing the risks in your business.

Image and video credits: Brain via author, Cheese diagram by author, based on Reason, 1997,  Incidents & Accidents diagram by author, video (c) by Daniel Simons (1999), based on research by Simons and Christopher Chabris, posted on YouTube by Daniel Simons

Additional Resources
About chronic unease and the research that went into developing the concept
About Laura’s work on organisational safety and leadership or to inquire about research collaborations around unease and other safety related topics

This blog post is based on the following research papers:
Fruhen, L. S., Flin, R. H., & McLeod, R. (2014). Chronic unease for safety in managers: a conceptualisation. Journal of Risk Research, 17(8), 969-979.
Flin, R., & Fruhen, L. (2015). Managing Safety: Ambiguous Information and Chronic Unease. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 23(2), 84-89.
Fruhen, L. S., & Flin, R. (2015). ‘Chronic unease’ for safety in senior managers: an interview study of its components, behaviours and consequences. Journal of Risk Research, (ahead-of-print), 1-19.

Reason, J. (1997). Managing the risks of organizational accidents. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Rochlin, G.I. (1993). Defining “high reliability” organizations in practice: A taxonomic prologue. In K.H. Roberts, New Challenges to Understanding Organizations. (pp.11-32). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
Weick, K.E., & Sutcliffe, K.M. (2006). Mindfulness and the quality of organizational attention. Organizational Science, 17, 514-524.

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How Heathrow Launched an Easter Mobile App

Heathrow Easter Treasure Trail mobile appEditor’s note: We welcome Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC) as benefactor and thank them for their support. To learn about OAMC, visit the benefactor page

This post is part 2 in a new series by the Heathrow Airport Innovation Team. In the previous post, Richard introduced the Heathrow innovation process; how we gather business challenges, score and prioritise them for trial projects. Today, we share a successful initiative that combines several smaller business challenges with innovative technology to produce a fully fledged passenger-facing, custom-made mobile app. The Easter Treasure Trail app enables families to play an interactive game using iBeacons. It uses location-based and context-aware services that were tested and launched in Heathrow Terminal 2.

Combining Challenge with Research

After discussions with business units across Heathrow, we collected several small challenges that individually scored low in our challenge scoring method. These were:

  • Family groups are small but a significant percentage of our passenger numbers overall, and become an important part of the passenger make-up during holiday periods. How do we use technology to help make family time at the airport more enjoyable?
  • Terminal 2 is the newest Heathrow terminal and many passengers haven’t flown through it before. How can we provide a subtle way to improve passenger knowledge of the terminal layout?
  • How can we encourage passengers to walk past more of the retail outlets, before they sit down to wait for their flight?
  • How can we point out great Heathrow landmarks in an interesting way?
  • How can we influence the redemption rate of retail offers by making these offers specific to the passengers’ location and context?

Also, we were interested in using Bluetooth beacons to provide location-based services indoors. So we decided to develop a treasure hunt mobile application for our family passengers.

By providing clues to lead passengers around the departure lounge, we’d provide a fun way to address the challenges here mentioned and at the same time learn about deploying and operating beacons in an airport environment.

Build code

Agile App Development and Honing the MVP

As with all app projects, we defined the minimum set of features and functionality that will deliver the experience we are looking for – the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). To do this, we worked with a development partner to define the user personas, critical functionality, user experience (UX) and design language. This was developed in short series of workshops over two weeks, using the agile methodology.

For the app, we created 2 user personas;

Persona 1 
A British family consisting of 1 parent (assuming the other parent is with cases, or in a retail environment) with 1 child aged 8 years. The family are moderately well off, and are flying to North America to visit extended family. This persona was considered our primary user.

Persona 2
A female, aged around 30, working in a professional role, and going abroad on business. She has an interest in technology, and uses an iPhone for business and for her personal life.

Before we started the trial, we thought we’d get a considerable amount of interest from passengers fitting persona 2. And that they may be more aware of the game and with more time to spend. But in reality, we found that persona 1 made up the highest proportion of players; but were predominantly non-British nationals.

When we were defining the MVP, there was another key component to be specified and that was the route itself. We had taken the decision to fix this at the point of beacon installation, given the time and complexity involved in deploying the beacons in an airport environment.

So we started trialling the route intensively in the beginning, holding the beacons and checking the received signal strength as we walked the route, as well as checking the feasibility of potential installation locations against the goals of including specific waypoints such as a post box or ‘selfie-moment’ in the route. We didn’t have scope to install a matrix of beacons with which we could use trilateration for user positioning, so we measured the proximity to specific beacons as the trigger for meeting the journey waypoints. Our aim was to install beacons in discreet locations; given the height of the ceilings and positioning of furniture, the top of flight information screens or advertising pillars turned out to be the most useful beacon sites.

Launching and Testing MVP

Adopting an agile, iterative development process meant that we were able to deliver the first functioning app within 3 weeks. At this stage, we deliberately avoided any interaction with other teams that might have ‘slowed us down’. For example, we did not consult with Brand or PR – as the MVP product was for internal testing only and not to be shared externally at this stage.

The key driver for developing the MVP was to gain business buy-in to the user experience and its success in overcoming the business challenges we identified at the start. This meant that we could illustrate some of the user experience through suggestion, rather than going through the process of development for all of the features.

For example, the feature of posting a selfie to twitter simply showed a mockup of the results rather than actually posting to twitter. This allowed us to simplify the implementation, to paint the picture of what we were trying to achieve and allowed our stakeholders to visualise the experience.

Then we moved into the app testing phase, inviting a wide range of Heathrow staff to trial it and give feedback. It is at this point that we brought in the Brand and PR teams to provide direction for a successful second iteration.

Second Iteration

Once the proof of concept piece MVP app was complete, and our Innovation Steering Group (ISG) approved a real version, we set to work on completing the second iteration. So we removed faked content and processes, and created a final product which could be deployed over Easter.

At the start of the second iteration, we wanted to ensure that the goal was clearly understood: to polish the app sufficiently so that we could launch it publicly within a limited environment to get ‘real’ user feedback and analytics.

To do this, we restricted development to iOS only and just tested it (and not Android), and for one terminal only, Terminal 2. In addition, the Treasure Trail (as it was eventually named) would end on a specific date. The latter is especially key for us in the Innovation team; we exist to facilitate trials to understand their impact and to describe a business case for a fuller deployment, rather than a half-hearted attempt.  However, we did take the opportunity to write the app in a modular way to allow any future development to build on the work already done.

The second iteration took about 1 month, including development time and testing various versions of iOS and the array of compatible devices, all of which had slightly different Bluetooth performance in the field.

It was an interesting learning experience, and a direct result of us choosing beacon proximity by received signal strength as a trigger, as each device type needed a slightly different configuration to work in the same way. This involved quite a bit of calibration work on our part, walking the route dozens of times (and many 1000s of steps on our wearable fitness trackers!) to finesse the experience.


As part of the work to design the second iteration, we sought the advice of our Branding team, who helped us alongside our original UX/UI (user interface) developer to create the colourful yet on-brand version of the application that went live. We had elements of Easter (bunnies) mixed with verdant fields of the British Isles and a traditional ‘Sandcastle’ type castle peeking over a hill. This background was combined with our distinct purple branding to achieve the final result (pictured).

Once ready, this version was showcased to various stakeholders, live in the terminal for the first time – to help get buy in from these teams. Both groups loved the application and worked tirelessly across the Easter period to promote it and help passengers use it.

Timing was critical to this project, with Easter being an immovable date. As with all App Store releases, we were beholden to the Apple approval process. Actually, we found the App Store approval timescales to fit the 2-week turnaround generally experienced by other developers.

Thereafter, we developed advertising for the app via Heathrow’s social media channels, through terminal leafleting and physical signage to let passengers know where the game began and what it involved.

Furthermore, we did a bit of advertising through WiFi welcome screens. The physical signage in the terminal directly corresponded with an increase in the amount of people playing the game, so all this proved really valuable in driving awareness and use of the app.


What Did We Learn?

With the Easter period now over, we are now collecting the data and writing the final report. This experience has given us the opportunity to learn a number of lessons, which we can summarise below:

User Experience
For the first iteration, focus on the user experience. Provide the minimum functionality that gives the optimum user experience.

Bring in a wide range of stakeholders and build in their views as soon as possible.

Lead Time
Work out the long lead-time items – don’t forget to involve Brand, PR and Advertising teams early (if applicable) to understand the timeframes they need too.

A hard deadline focuses the mind on keeping to a tight scope.

People will turn on Bluetooth if they’ve got a strong enough reason to do so.

Beacon deployment is all about the use cases. In this case, the installation was specific to the Treasure Trail, so we chose to work in proximity mode with individual beacons. That might not have been the best solution in a different beacon environment.

Consider radio interference and get permission before you install.

Adults like to play too – this kind of game isn’t just for children.

Passengers really liked that we weren’t just taking them around the terminal for no reason, but showing them sights and facilities that they might otherwise not know about (viewing Concorde, children’s play areas, water fountains, quiet areas and baby change facilities etc.).

People also really appreciated the surprise reward of a Heathrow branded chocolate egg on completion.

In conclusion, the Easter Treasure Trail project was an opportunity to use the agile approach to deliver a mobile app in a very short time. We launched an app experience that passengers enjoyed, in a short timescale, with a limited budget and which addressed real business challenges in Terminal 2.

In ‘doing agile’, we gained valuable experience, increased our knowledge of working with beacons and adapted our app development approach to take all of this learning on board. The upcoming app projects are already realising the benefit from the work we started with the Easter Treasure Trail app. It is an ongoing process to making every journey better for Heathrow passengers.

This post was co-authored by Colin Mair and Robin Gissing.

Robin Gissing is a technology architect at Heathrow. His background is in academia and emerging technology having previously worked as a Technologist and Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor in the Higher Education sector. There, Robin co-chaired a number of regional and national user groups and spearheaded first of type innovative learning experiences to students across the UK.

Easter at Heathrow
Heathrow Airport Terminal Maps
The Lean Startup
Gartner: CIOs need to focus on supporting mobile, context-aware services, analytics
What you need to know about using Bluetooth beacons
Beacons, Bluetooth & Mobile: The Future of Context Marketing

Photo credit: Easter eggs by Maxmaria via Flickr, MVP diagram from, and Easter app image from Heathrow’s innovation team.

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Open Skies: What U.S. Airlines Really Want

US open skiesThe Beginning: Open Skies, An American Initiative

In 1992, Jeff Shane (currently General Counsel at the International Air Transport Association and then a senior official in the United States Department of Transportation) negotiated the first “open skies” agreement with The Netherlands.  As odd as it may seem now, the reaction to this development (after people asked “what is open skies?”) was largely negative.

Why, many people, including many airline executives, asked would we sign such an agreement with a place like that.  “We have literally dozens of cities one might fly into in the United States,” (never mind that international traffic was then heavily concentrated in just a few gateways), people said.  “There is really only one city in The Netherlands anyone in the U.S. would want to fly to.  This agreement seems terribly unbalanced, a giveaway.”  This is the sort of thing that was heard over and over in those days.

What the critics didn’t fully understand at first was that the U.S. government had a strategy in mind.  The critics did not understand that this was but the first is a series of agreements to be negotiated across the globe as part of an effort to blow open a highly restricted international aviation market.  And that, if the United States was successful, then surely others would follow resulting in a new era of global choice and competition for travelers and shippers.

In the years since, the United States has negotiated 111 such agreements, with nations large and small.  The U.S. has been open to signing agreements with nearly any willing partner.  One aviation industry insider even joked that if the Pope had a plane, the U.S. would negotiate open skies with the Vatican.

In time, more liberal agreements were being negotiated around the world by all sorts of countries.  When something like open skies wasn’t available, countries were still willing to liberalize their markets to some extent (as happened with the 1998 U.S. – Japan agreement, a development I participated in as an industry representative and which resulted in a nearly 40% increase in the size of the U.S. – Japan market).

In the United States, this policy has been hugely successful, helping bring international service to a growing number of American cities and, through the power of imitation, has resulted in a global air transportation system more liberal than any dared imagine a generation ago.  NO ONE truly wants to squander these gains.  Even the carriers pushing the open skies with the Gulf carriers the loudest.

Obviously, some nations, and some airlines, have made better use of this new regime than others; that is the nature of the beast.  The United States has greatly expanded service to and from a number of countries, and many American cities that did not previously have international service were able to get it.  The airport community in particular played a huge role in promoting these developments (airlines promoted them when a particular airline wanted to get into a certain country, or expand its offerings, while other airlines would oppose certain agreements if they weren’t interested or, more likely, if they had a nice little monopoly under the old regime and wanted to keep it.  In which case, they accused the U.S. government of giving away the store.  A bit more history to keep in mind).

In 1993, the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry, which was made up of key aviation, business, government and labor leaders essentially endorsed the open skies approach in its report (Disclosure:  I served as Executive Director and wrote the report).  This report became the basis for the official U.S. government aviation policy that was developed in the time after that report.  (Given my role on the commission, I unofficially consulted with the government while the policy was being formed).  This seemed to put an end to the debate over whether open skies was a good idea.

Until now.

US Airlines Were For Open Skies Before They Were Against Open Skies

The three largest U.S. airlines:  Delta, United and American, have launched a campaign to reassess the open skies arrangements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.  Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates have become so successful as international carriers, being held up as models of service and style; that they are now seen as threats to the U.S. airlines.  To make matters more interesting, these airlines have consciously set themselves up to operate a global hub and spoke system, similar to that pioneered by U.S. airlines in our domestic market after reauthorization, but with a worldwide reach.

Qatar Airways U.S. Route Map

Qatar Airways U.S. Route Map

Etihad Route Map

Etihad Airways U.S. Route Map

Emirates U.S. Route Map

Emirates Airlines U.S. Route Map

More to the point, they are also a convenient (and politically potent) way for U.S. carriers to argue that U.S. government policy puts our carriers at a disadvantage they cannot overcome. They argue that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are supportive of their carriers in a way the U.S. government is not, and that this will cost U.S. jobs and the place of our carriers in global education.  At one time, the argument made by U.S. airline executives was that the U.S. government should do the same for them.  Indeed, I have even heard executives from U.S. airlines state that they wish their government would support them the way the governments in Qatar and the UAE support their airlines.  Finally having concluded that this argument was not going to gain traction, the airline executives are now arguing that open skies with Qatar and the UAE gives their carriers an unfair advantage.  They have even commissioned a slick and lengthy “White Paper” on the subject; full of footnotes and soundbites.  And, even after having to retreat over impolitic comments by the CEO of Delta, they seem to have a little bit of momentum.  So, it is important to understand what they are doing, and what they hope to accomplish.

What’s in the Open Skies White Paper, What’s Not and Why

First of all, as already mentioned, the White Paper is slick and well put together.  It is written by smart and credible people. It is very careful in what it alleges, and in what it doesn’t.  It hits certain key points, while ignoring others.  You might get the impression reading it that the three airlines are only ordering Airbus planes, for example, the word Boeing doesn’t seem to appear.  The paper never really comes out and says the three airlines and two countries are violating the open skies agreement, because they are not.

Any industry figure who wanted to pick it apart could do so.  The paper alleges the two governments subsidize their airlines because they do not charge enough for their airports.  As a former President of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), that one nearly made me fall off my chair.  Airlines are always complaining that airports need to charge less and less; the amount can never be low enough.  And in the United States, last time I calculated it, airlines pay less than a third of the capital and operating costs of airports.  No matter, where you stand depends on where you sit, as they say, and the argument that Gulf region airlines do not pay “enough” for airport infrastructure is strongly made.  There is even a complaint that the airports in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi do not charge connecting passengers their equivalent of what we in the U.S. call a passenger facility charge, or PFC.  Never mind that then PFC equivalent in those airports is about $20 US (in the United States it is capped at $4.50) and that almost no airports in Canada (as one example) charge connecting passengers the equivalent fee.

There is no mention of the fact that many U.S. open skies agreements around the world resulted in about the most uncompetitive thing you can think of:  anti-trust immunity for major carriers from each country, arrangements that all three of the major U.S. international carriers benefit from.

There is no mention of the system of government grants and tax breaks, at the federal, state and local levels that benefit U.S. airlines, their passengers and the airports they serve.

There is no mention of U.S. bankruptcy laws, which most in the world including in Europe view as a form of state aid, and through the use of which all three major U.S. international carriers have shed billions of costs and obligations and without which none of them would have survived.

There is no mention of developments in China, for example.  According to The Economist the Chinese are building an airport and surrounding aerotropolis from scratch in an inland provincial capital called Zhengzhou, with ambitions that this airport will have five runways and handle 70 million passengers (equivalent to Heathrow today) by 2030.  Clearly, not all of those 70 million people are going to/from Zhengzhou and the planned airport will serve as an Asian hub for Chinese carriers.  Granted we do not have an “open skies” agreement with China, but the principle still holds.  Yet, China is a lucrative future market for our carriers and there will be little or no appetite for upsetting that apple cart.

In other words, this very clever paper, while quite well done and persuasive to the inexperienced eye, has a fair number of holes in it.  This fact has caused some to sputter, and some to reach for a strong drink. Blood pressures are on the rise.  It is even being pointed out that Qatar and the UAE are important factors in U.S. policy on such key issues as ISIS, Iran and Yemen; so there seems little chance the administration will poke its fingers in the figurative eyes of these countries right now.  So I think it is important to understand why this effort is being undertaken.

For the sake of balance and full disclosure we have added information from those who put the white paper together in the accompanying box.

US open skies

Who is the US Open Skies White Paper For?

To begin, it is important to understand the audience for this white paper, and this campaign.  It is not aviation experts.  The audience is not an academic one, this is not an academic paper.  The audience is editorial writers and reporters.  It is public officials and their staffs.  It is the 2016 political campaign already beginning in earnest in the United States.  If you think the audience is an expert one, you will think the paper is not up to standard.  If you understand the audience is a political one, you will see that it is quite clever.

Remember what I said earlier.  The argument about the Gulf carriers has been made by U.S. airlines and their labor groups for some time now.  They understand that these carriers have an effective business strategy, and that they cannot match the level of service and, frankly, elegance, offered by these carriers.  The argument used to be that these carriers are fortunate to have governments who understand that their airlines are a national asset and act accordingly, and that the U.S. government ought to emulate them.  As this effort to change U.S. government policy did not work, the argument is now being turned around to say that these two nations are behaving unfairly, depriving U.S. carriers of opportunities and U.S. workers of jobs, and so the U.S. government needs to change its policy to account for that.

While I am certain that news of the U.S. government renouncing these agreements would be greeted joyfully in the boardrooms of Delta, United and American; and that news of a request for re-negotiation or even consultation would be most welcome; I think the real goal is to influence the FAA Reauthorization legislation that will be considered by Congress this year (there is a deadline of 30 September to reauthorize the agency, including the taxes and fees that fund it and the aviation system in this country).  U.S. airlines have pointed out, with some reason to be fair, that the current system of a dozen and a half taxes and fees that fund the system is not terribly efficient, is more costly than it needs to be, and should be modernized.  And if the system were modernized, we could have a more efficient system that would cost the airlines less.  As a secondary strategy, I also believe U.S. airlines are using this campaign as a way of explaining why they could never offer service as pleasant and luxurious as the Gulf carriers – it simply costs too much.  The message here is that such service is simply not possible in a fair and open economic environment.

Still, in my mind, the main element of their strategy is to influence the debate over the FAA authorization legislation and to gain sympathy for the argument that U.S. government policy leaves U.S. airlines at a competitive disadvantage in the world, and that our policies and laws must change.  The strategy is largely about obtaining a more favorable regime of aviation taxes and fees (as is the U.S. airline strategy toward the future of the air traffic control system in this country, but that is a subject for another time).

Is US Open Skies Policy in Danger?

As written earlier, the deadline for this legislation is 30 September of 2015.  But it is important to recall that last time around the law was finally reauthorized four and a half years after the initial deadline, and after 23 temporary extensions.  My somewhat educated guess is that we will need an extension or two before a final law is passed, quite likely lasting well into 2016.  So be prepared for more white papers, television commercials, overheated rhetoric and political pressure on the issue of U.S. open skies policy.  By the time the law is fully reauthorized, we will have had our fill of all that.  The airlines either will, or will not, get some traction on their taxes and fees argument (I predict they will get some traction but not as much as they would like).  They may or may not get something in the legislation calling for consultations or re-negotiation with Qatar and the UAE  “I predict consultations.  Already the U.S. Departments of Transportation, State and Commerce have opened a file on the matter and requested industry and public comment”.

But U.S. open skies policy will remain intact.

Image credits: Delta Airlines and American Airlines by Chris Lundberg via Flickr, Qatar Airways route map via Qatar Airways website, Etihad route map via Etihad website, Emirates route map via Emirates website and Restoring Open Skies via 

This is How Heathrow Airport Innovates

Heathrow Airport IT Editor’s note: We are excited to bring you a new series featuring insights from Heathrow Airport exclusively on New Airport Insider. Today’s post introduces Heathrow’s internal process and upcoming ones will cover projects delivered by the innovation team.

In this new series by Heathrow Airport’s IT Innovation team, we will share with you how we operate and provide context as to why Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAL) formed an Airport IT Innovation team. Also, introduce our mission, goals and detail processes and practices. The posts will be written by different members of the Innovation department and we will go into detail about some of the initiatives we have been working on.


Heathrow needs no introduction. It handles 73 million passengers per year and runs at 99% capacity across 2 runways. Our groups’ mission is to “make every journey better” to become a world class airport. To achieve this, we continually leverage new and innovative approaches to ensure our operation delivers exceptionally high levels of passenger experiences.

How It Started

Since we already delivered large-scale engineering projects, from building award-winning terminals to re-laying the runways, our planning and programme governance practices were already geared around delivery of large scale projects. And in 2012, our Chief Information Officer (CIO) Neil Clark made the decision to develop an innovation capability that would work closely with the business to understand and deliver solutions more effectively.

Starting with a small group of 3, the first challenge was to build support across the entire organisation. This was done through delivering smaller scale wins to build momentum and immediately demonstrate the team’s benefits.

Initially, the goals were to:

  • Drive effective business case development through trialling and testing initiatives to provide the evidence to prove the business benefit.
  • Engage with colleagues and partners and provide an environment to enable them to innovate
  • Bring “lean” and “art of the possible” thinking to all business challenges
  • Be able to identify, embrace and provide potential solutions based on new and emerging technologies

In the first months, we gave careful consideration as to how to create the “right” type of culture that allows innovation to succeed. As you would expect, Heathrow is geared towards managing risk and driving operational efficiencies. This is done with a successful Continuous Improvement programme, however it was clear more needed to be done to enable an innovation ethos.

The key to the team’s early success was creating an environment where the right levels of support were given, and in developing a culture where it was acceptable to try, and in some cases fail (as long as it was done quickly and with the learnings shared in a comfortable environment). So support from the senior team was garnered through forming an Innovation Steering Group (ISG), chaired by the CIO but also alongside exec members from Commercial, Operations and Communications teams.

The innovation team specifically focused on meeting business challenges and not simply adding shiny new pieces of technology. This was crucial for two reasons:

  1. We didn’t want to simply push new technologies for the sake of it.
  2. By targeting business challenges, we ensured that if we successfully found innovative solutions, there was a greater chance that there would be support from the business for the operational development costs.

The Process

The process is formed around a classic funnel where challenges and ideas are collected on the left. Then by using a series of lightweight tools (shown at the bottom), the team is able to rapidly triage this large group in order to leave a subset that are then moved through the phases.

Heathrow Airport Innovation Process

Challenges are collected in a variety of ways, from entries to either our global innovation competition, or smaller challenges with people emailing us or suggesting ideas to us in our roles. By far the most successful way of collecting ideas has been through challenge-gathering sessions held by the team. These are 90 minute facilitated sessions, where we ask representatives from business units across Heathrow to tell us about their challenges. We ask questions like, “What keeps you awake at night?”, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you ask yourself ‘if I could only change that, this would be so much easier?” or “what missing piece of data would transform the ability to do your role?”.


Once challenges are collected, metrics are used to score and prioritise. To make scoring less biased, we ask colleagues from around the department and the wider business units to join in this process. Then we use a short Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13), which helps in emphasising positive outcomes, to score each challenge.

Shape and Amplify

If a challenge scores above a certain threshold, we assign a resource from the team to begin to “Shape and Amplify” by using some lightweight tools, for example a vision card. A vision card is a one-page document that collates information about the challenge (detailed description, success criteria, sponsor, champion, business benefit, etc.). This enables the Innovation Steering Group (ISG) to make an informed decision on whether to move the challenge forward to an innovation trial of some sort.


The “Proving” stage may take the form of a Proof of Concept (POC) trial, or a piece of detailed research. So the team takes whatever steps are necessary to deliver the insight required to proceed with a business case to full project funding.


This can mean developing an app, manufacturing a new device, borrowing technology or changing an existing process.  Whatever the trial or POC requires, the aim is to demonstrate a clear understanding of the measured benefits we’ll achieve and the challenges we will face in implementing the technology.

Final Thought

In delivering Innovation in Heathrow, one key lesson learned has been the importance of providing a variety of approaches to engage with colleagues and partners. We try to make sure that everybody knows where and how they can come to us to talk about innovation. And we run technology showcases, deliver lectures, write papers, attend workshops.

Also, by starting with the goal of solving a real business challenge and creating new value through a product or service, we can instigate and engage in brilliant conversations.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this post. In upcoming posts, we will introduce to you some initiatives and the challenges delivered in the last few years.

Photo credit: By 5cantonas via Flickr

Airport Survey

In collaboration with ADB Airfield Solutions, we are conducting a short online survey to identify top issues that concern airports and key priorities for 2015. The survey results will be published on both websites in May 2015 and all data collected will remain confidential. Will you take the survey?

Aviation Security: Why I Will Be Scared This Year

Aviation Security

Catchy title?

Yes, I am more afraid in 2015 than I have been in years.  But afraid of what?  Am I afraid of ISIS/ISIL?  AQAP?  Al Shabaab?  Al Qaeda?  Al Nusra?  Lone wolf terrorists?

No.  Not afraid of any of them. That does not mean I do not consider them dangerous, they are. That does not mean I do not consider them evil, they are. That does not mean that I think we ought to ease up on any of them, we should not.

What I fear is this:  In America, certainly, and in many other places too, we have developed a level of obsession with terrorism that can spawn (and is spawning) an overreaction.  Our media is obsessed.  Many of our political leaders are obsessed (and often attack others who are less obsessed).  And our people are obsessed.

Several writers over the years have said that terrorism only works if we allow ourselves to become, and act, terrorized.  Once we do that, we are giving the terrorists exactly what they want.  Well, in America and elsewhere, that has long since happened.  Even as all those groups I listed above have faced setbacks and had leaders killed, they are succeeding in the only thing that really matters:  terrorizing people.  Even when they fail, as they do far more often than not, they succeed in scaring us.

It seems one can’t go more than two days without some sort of CNN “Breaking News” item saying, essentially, that bad guys still want to attack aviation.  I don’t know about you, but I doubt we will see any Breaking News stories about terrorists retiring to the Riviera.  Of course they still want to attack aviation.  That will never end, will never go away.

I am amazed at how many interviews I have seen regarding the topic of whether ISIS is going to attack in the United States.  (And I saw another within two hours of typing that sentence).  They are clearly hoping to inspire someone here to do something awful, much as Anwar Al Awlaki did.  I am sure they aspire to attack the homeland themselves.  Heck, they aspire to a global caliphate, so of course they’d kinda like to attack here.

So every time an interview like that airs, usually right after some mention of the barbarous nature of ISIS, we are immediately tempted to believe we are in imminent personal danger of a similar fate.  Then we have public officials, or former public officials, willing to go on television and say we are not as safe as we can and should be.  And, in the absence of any contrary narrative, the fear level increases.

In and of itself, this wouldn’t be so bad.  But added to that, we have the intense coverage of every security “breach”, whether some kid who wandered through a hole in a fence or even an old lady who likes to try to stow away (both real life examples).  The inevitable result is indignant public officials and “experts” talking about how unsafe the aviation system is, and then proposing all sorts of ideas designed to make it “safer.”

In the United States recently, some idiots who work at the airport were found smuggling firearms on a flight from Atlanta to New York.  This, naturally, led to congressional hearings and calls for all sorts of “security measures” that would actually make us less safe, rather than more.  (What amuses me about this particular story more than anything is the fact that moving firearms this way is probably the riskiest method from the point of view of the smuggler.  If they put them in a truck, or on a bus they would have had a far better chance of success.  Getting caught, eventually, doing it the way they did it is almost guaranteed).

For years, when I was President of Airports Council International – North America, my members and I called for more of a risk-based approach to security.  Rather than treating everyone and everything as a potential threat, let’s try to narrow it down and focus more on those people and things that might actually pose a problem.  The challenge always was the fact that all the political pressure goes in the other direction.  There is no real political or public pressure for what some would see, or define, as “less security” or “doing” less – even when the result is a MORE secure system.  Moves that seemed to make perfect sense to us were resisted because of this countervailing political pressure.

Luckily, though, for the aviation system and for travelers everywhere, we had leadership at the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security that was willing to move in this direction.  The resulting initiatives, such as PreCheck, Global Entry and Automated Passport Control, have been a great success in facilitating legitimate travel while focusing resources where they are most needed.

Another example of such an effort predates all of those:  the U.S. Visa Waiver program.  Visitors from certain countries, including many NATO allies, can come to the United States without a visa, though they need to provide certain information about themselves so they can be checked.  With documented cases of Canadians and Western Europeans and others traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS, there are growing calls to reconsider this initiative.  And I am concerned that those calls will extend to the very popular and effective programs mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

That is what scares me.  If we back away from these kinds of initiatives we will not only restrict travel but we will create logjams at and near airports that will provide target rich environments for anyone with a gun for a crude explosive device.

I fear that we in the United States are about to take a step back from what makes sense, and what has largely worked, in order to react (overreact) to sensational stories.  I fear it will happen, because it is happening.  And lest you think this is just an American story, remember that in the security realm almost everything we do here gets exported in some way, if only because other gateways want to preserve their access to the U.S. market.

So, yes, I am very afraid.  I am afraid that we have lost the ability to avoid being terrorized by every incident.  I am afraid we will be unable to resist calls for “more security” that will in the end make us less safe and make far less efficient use of scarce resources.  I am afraid that we will make some really bad choices this year, choices that will be exported around the world.  I am afraid our media and our public leaders have lost the ability to tell what should truly be breaking news and what should be a threat calling for new measures and new policies, and what should not.

One of my closest friends in the airport world, Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, once said that if we wait till the bad guys get to the airport to try to catch them it is likely too late.  The real hard work happens far from the front door of the airport, it happens in intelligence agencies around the world whose agents risk life and limb to get good information and then share it.  We can cripple an airport operationally by intrusive procedures, we can travel scared of something that is far less likely to happen to any of us than is winning an Olympic medal or even being struck by lightning.

When we do those things, ISIS, AQAP, Al Shabaab, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda and potential lone wolves everywhere smile and become energized.  Our fear, and the fear mongering we often see on television and hear from too many public leaders, is the oxygen that sustains them.

Let’s refuse to let them breathe.

Photo credit: by zefrog via Flickr

Indonesia Airports Build: Why a Second Jakarta Airport

Jakarta Airports

Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta Airport is one of the most congested airports in the world. As explained in part one, the largest Indonesian airport has failed to cope with passenger growth and will continue to do so in the future. This means that Jakarta is in desperate need of a second large airport to cope with future growth.

Presently, downtown Halim Perdanakusuma Airport is used to relief Soekarno-Hatta, but with very limited capacity and limited space for expansion. Therefore a complete new greenfield airport is seen as the best solution. Located further away from the city centre, such a new airport will not only serve the Indonesian capital, but also the densely populated areas of the adjacent Banten and West Java provinces.

Multiple large greenfield airport projects are in various stages of development. There are Karawang Airport and Kertajati Airport east of Jakarta, and Lebak south of Jakarta. Karawang and Lebak are seen as the best options to complement Soekarno-Hatta, but contrary to Kertajati Airport, actual construction work is yet to start. Karawang Airport is even blocked by the West Java Province as it will be competing with Kertajati Airport.

Halim Airport: the Old Jakarta Gateway

In January 2014 Halim Airport was reopened for domestic operations to reduce pressure on Soekarno-Hatta. Garuda Indonesia’s low-cost subsidiary Citilink is currently the only user that actually moved operations away from Soekarno-Hatta to the previous international gateway of Jakarta. Due to the limited amount of available slots and the requirement to split operations between two airports, Garuda Indonesia, AirAsia Indonesia and Lion Air all cancelled their plans to operate from Halim.

Yet in October 2014, Lion Group announced that they will invest $436 million in the airport to develop a new terminal, capable of handling up to 12 million passengers per year, and other facilities such as taxiways and aprons. There are also plans to build a monorail to downtown Jakarta. Halim will serve as a base for Lion Air’ full service subsidiary Batik Air with construction work on the terminal expansion  to be finished by July 2015.

In 2006 Lion Group already saw potential in Halim Airport, with subsidiary PT Angkasa Transportindo Selares securing a 25-year lasting concession for its commercial operations. Though state-owned airport operator AP II was assigned to manage the Indonesian Air Force owned airport when it re-opened in January 2014. When Lion Group wanted to start making use of its concession, the Supreme Court had to order AP II  to hand over the management of Halim to Lion Group.

Despite Lion Group’s expansion of the airport, Halim is doomed to remain a secondary airport only. The airport is located just 10km from the centre of Jakarta, and is surrounded by an expanding city (see above image). Further, there is no room for extensive expansion beyond its current single runway, and only limited space for terminal expansion. Moreover, environmental and social considerations are a major issue in the operation and expansion of Halim Airport.

Lion Group Secures Own Airport Infrastructure

Just a few weeks after the announcement of Lion’s plans for Halim Airport, the airline group confirmed plans for a new large airport just south of Jakarta in Lebak, part of the Banten Province.  Construction is to begin in 2015 with first operations to start in 2018 – an ambitious goal for a large greenfield airport project. The airport is planned to reach a capacity of up to 50 million passengers per year and will serve as the main hub for no-frills airline Lion Air, replacing Soekarno-Hatta Airport.

Lion Group CEO Rusdi Kirana commented in November 2014 that they received initial approval from the Transportation Ministry to develop a new four-runway airport in the Lebak Regency. One of its runways will be able to handle the Airbus 380 in the light of a potential partnership with a  Gulf carrier (Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways), though no concrete plans have been made about such a partnership. Lion Group plans to break ground in 2015 on a site of 600 hectares it already owns.

The airport is also intended to become the largest cargo airport in Indonesia, serving as a multimodal hub for the domestic market. The airport site which will eventually be as large as 5,500 hectares – two times the size of Soekarno-Hatta Airport – will include warehouse facilities, wholesale distribution centers, a commercial zone for shopping and a fast train connection to Jakarta.

For the new Lebak airport, Lion Group will source private funding as it is not subject to state-funding. The airline group is planning to sell 30% of its share in one of Indonesia’s largest IPO’s (Initial Public Offering) in 2016. This IPO is intended to raise about $820 million to partly fund the new airport project. Other unknown companies will also be involved in a new consortium to help fund the airport.

Conflict Over Competing West Java Airports

East of Jakarta there are plans for two other major airports, Karawang International Airport and Kertajati International Airport. Karawang is the preferred option for both the national government and the city of Jakarta. The estimated catchment area of Karawang has a large overlap of about forty percent with that of Soekarno-Hatta. In other words, Karawang could take over a large share of the demand in Eastern Jakarta to relieve Soekarno-Hatta Airport.

Kertajati Airport which is located further to the east has an estimated overlap with Soekarno-Hatta of just 2%, with Greater Jakarta completely outside the catchment area of this airport. Therefore Kertajati will not be able to take over an adequate share of Soekarno-Hatta’s traffic.

Airport Jakarta

Though Kertajati Airport is the preferred project of the West Java Province government. West Java’s government is pushing to increase airport capacity in the important metropolitan area of Bandung, where Kertajati Airport will be built. However Karawang and Kertajati share a significant part of their catchment area and according to West Java there is room for only one large airport in that region and therefore sees Karawang as a major threat.

Karawang Airport, which will be funded by the independent Japanese government agency Japan International Cooperation Agency, still needs permission from the local government of West Java to start construction. The latter applies the brakes to ensure his favorite Kertajati airport gets ahead: it could easily take until 2017 before Karawang airport receives governmental approval.

Meanwhile plans for West Java’s Kertajati have been accelerated and expanded when the first phase’ target doubled in size, aiming at a capacity of 24 million passengers per year and up to 500,000 tons of cargo. With operations planned to start in 2018, West Java wants to make sure Kertajati airport starts operations before Karawang so that it has a first-mover advantage. Kertajati Airport is planned to expand to a capacity of 40 million by 2035.

Plans for Karawang International Airport are to reach a capacity of up to 70 million passengers, with 4 runways. Although expanding airport capacity in the Eastern Jakarta region is a key project, the protective attitude of West Java towards Kertajati brings the Karawang project in jeopardy. And while the construction of Karawang Airport was planned to start in 2015, it is very unlikely that this deadline will be met. Meanwhile, construction on Kertajati Airport’s first runway is underway (with South Korean construction group Samsung C&T being involved since summer 2014 to ensure the smooth development of the project).

Why Airport Development Remains Uncertain

Karawang Airport and Lion Group’s new Lebak airport are 2 greenfield projects that could solve the capacity shortages in the region, though both are still in the planning phase.

Lebak airport is planned to be operational by 2018, ambitious for a greenfield project of this size as construction will only start in late in 2015. And Karawang Airport is blocked by West Java because of conflicting interests with Kertajati Airport.

Regional interests conflicting with national projects are daily business in Indonesia and a major reason for the current problematic state of its infrastructure.

Lion Group could actually prove to offer the best solution by moving away from Soekarno-Hatta as one of its main customers, and securing its own airport capacity in Halim and Lebak.

It is striking that a private airline group has to develop its own airport capacity to overcome problems caused by a failed airport strategy by AP II and the Indonesian governments. Lion Group seems to succeed in turning this problem into a commercial opportunity and at the same time gaining a competitive advantage over airlines that remain dependent on Soekarno-Hatta.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter. You can also use hashtag #newairportinsider

Photo credits: Halim Perdanakusuma Airport by Marina Lystseva and West Java map by Clyde & Co (Michael S. Horn).

Lion to spend $436m to take over Halim airport
Lion Air plans IPO for new airport
Caution Over Lion Group’s Lebak Airport Plan
A new Jakarta airport:Taking flight or grounded by delay?
Competition accelerates Kertajati airport schedule

A-CDM in Europe: Is the Ball Rolling?

A-CDMIn the course of one month, the ECAC zone could add 3 more Airport Collaborative Decision Making airports to its list of 12 in 2014. Latest to join was London Gatwick Airport on November 7th, and early October we welcomed Milano Malpensa Airport as Italy’s second, and Stuttgart Airport as Germany’s 5th addition already. Benefiting from lessons learned and thanks to German A-CDM procedure harmonization, Stuttgart pulled its project off in just over one year.

It looks like we are eventually picking up the required implementation pace. Can we do better? Definitely; many airports do have an A-CDM project in the pipeline, and many others should have, by now..

Airport CDM

From the Benches to the Trenches

All too many skeptics have been pointing fingers to Eurocontrol for this unconvincing implementation rate, but let’s be realistic here: one cannot expect the organisation to steer 10 or 15 projects simultaneously and guide every individual airport through the concept elements, preventing them from sitting back and relaxing until the next discussion round.

But more and more fingers are pointing in the direction of trade organisations and industry bodies like IATA, CANSO, ACI, … who excel in circumlocutory statements and press releases on collaborative decision making, but still haven’t rolled up their sleeves and stepped into the field to actually listen to the concerns of A-CDM stakeholders. Well, at least I have been around for 4 years in the Brussels Airport A-CDM program, and yes, as an A-CDM advocate, I have expressed the concerns of the community on quite a few public speaking occasions, but I don’t remember any of the aforementioned bodies stepping in or offering advice afterwards.

I’m asking myself if they are aware of their mitigating role in ongoing discussions and misunderstandings about the very core of the collaboration concept of A-CDM that are still haunting us after all those years

Airport CDM

Change Ahead?

To my pleasant surprise, a pertinent question was asked by someone from IATA in the ‘A-CDM at airports’ group on LinkedIn: “What can Eurocontrol, IATA, ACI, … do better to optimize implementation and delivery of benefits?”. So, it ís realised that there are ‘some issues’ with having the A-CDM concept adopted by the aviation industry… and I consider this to be a modest breakthrough. So I engaged with a counter question: ‘the one who only does what he has been doing will only get what he has always gotten, so what about some thinking outside the box and reaching out to the practitioners out there?’

My question was left unanswered, but for starters, I was happy to be able to take the conversation off line and elaborate on the chasm between boardroom A-CDM and the actual thing; issues which I will not withhold you, but which deserve a separate -and upcoming- blog post.


and Change Ahead?

Some weeks ago, I was invited by DLR to assist in a debate at the Airport IT 2014 conference on the importance of joint airport stakeholder decision making in future concepts such as Total Airport Management, for which A-CDM is a prerequisite (so this was me, arguing that A-CDM is approached too system-centric, in front of a fine selection of airport IT providers…).

Lots of buzz on ‘collaboration’ during the coffee breaks, and the word -again to my pleasant surprise- trickled down into many a slick airport tech-and-tool presentation. Yes, the success of an A-CDM project is measured by the transparency of its cross-stakeholder procedures rather than the performance of its tools.

Now, let us step up in the pursuit of the customer intimacy factor in project implementation and reach out to the practitioners to not only provide a system and bail out, but to make it actually happen and install a culture of sustained stakeholder engagement on those A-CDM airports to-be

… because an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory.

What’s your take on this issue? Besides a healthy dose of experience, what more is needed to gain momentum for A-CDM implementation? And how do we approach the powerhouses of the industry to get them rolling up their sleeves.

Look out for upcoming posts on A-CDM implementation and challenges. Meanwhile, I invite you to enjoy the extraordinary pictures from Vitor Azevedo. Vitor is on the push back team of Swissport at Brussels Airport, but might as well be a professional photographer. Have a look at

Season’s Greetings from New Airport Insider

New Airport Insider

As 2014 wraps up, I want to share with you a few things.

We are proud to be referenced on the 21st of December in, paragraph before last. The only thing, they referred to us as an airline magazine.

Press mention

Further, here are the 3 most read articles, all time.
No. 3 Australia Airports Build: The Other End of the Line by Dan Parsons
No. 2 Incheon Airport South Korea Evaluates European A-CDM by Kris de Bolle
No. 1 Introduction to Airport Planning: The Master Plan by David Ruiz-Celada

And here are the links to all the articles we have published, by category:
U.S. Aviation by Greg Principato
A-CDM by Kris de Bolle
Australia Airports Build by Dan Parsons
Airport Wildlife Risk by Dan Parsons
Safety Assurance by Dan Parsons
China Airports Build by Guillaume Dupont
Turkey Airports Build by Guillaume Dupont
Indonesia Airports Build by Guillaume Dupont & Maxim Roelen
Planning and Development by David Ruiz-Celada
New Airport Insider news by Jinan Alrawi

Last but not least, the New Airport Insider team wishes your family and you a warm holiday and a superb 2015!

Thank you for being here and we will back with a new post on the 14th of January 2015.

Photo credit: by Marianne DeSelle via Flickr

Airport Survey

In collaboration with ADB Airfield Solutions, we are conducting a short online survey to identify top issues that concern airports and key priorities for 2015. The survey results will be published on both websites in May 2015 and all data collected will remain confidential. Will you take the survey?