I was President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) for eight years, from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2013. During those eight years, I had more conversations than I could possibly count with people who wondered why airport privatization has not taken off in the United States. Many of these conversations were with people heavily involved in running or financing privatized airports around the world. Many were held with U.S. colleagues who thought privatization would provide benefits. In the world’s largest economy, and primary bastion of capitalism, airport privatization has remained the rarest of infrastructure animals. Why?
Off-The-Shelf and Out-Of-The-Box
Having been involved in European Airport Collaborative Decision Making for about 10 years, and experiencing it in live operations on a daily basis, makes me curious on what's available on the subject on the Internet.
For starters, there's an active LinkedIn group on Airport CDM that recently attracted its 1000th member. Lots of thoughts and questions on that forum, ranging from high-level opinions, to discussions on specific technical or operational topics. Besides that, you'll mainly find A-CDM coverage on one-pagers and in web news corners of official bodies like ACI, Eurocontrol and CANSO, and in the airport technology section of the websites of change management consultants and various industry partners. Some even feature in magazines, or (guest) blog on technical data sharing tool achievements, shiny interfaces with catchy acronyms and, subsequently, their happy customers. Boys, and our toys.
I'm trying to avoid sounding like a lecturer here, but please keep in mind that the majority of the technical solutions to be deployed are but the first step out of six on your way to become an A-CDM airport, as described in my previous post.
Recently, I came across a couple of articles that were published shortly after each other, and that reconfirmed a system centric view on A-CDM. One was a joint ACI Eurocontrol press release in which A-CDM is unfortunately described as 'a tool that allows for real time sharing of operational data', the other was Lockheed Martin's Chief Aviation Technologist Alaistair Deacon views on the future of A-CDM.
Make no mistake, Alaistair is spot on when questioning airport operator buy-in, and stating that the passenger, and his journey through the airport more specifically, is somewhat neglected in 'traditional A-CDM'. But shouldn't we owe it to ourselves to first investigate the root cause of the fact that A-CDM is 'poorly defined' (to certain extent) 'and implemented' (correct), instead of going full steam ahead with big data set-ups, and the dazzling opportunities that may come along with it? Otherwise, chances are that we end up with an equally poorly understood passenger-centric A-CDM successor.
Besides, there's a -most probably unvoluntary- ironic ring to traditional A-CDM, knowing that since Munich Airport premiered in 2008, it was followed by only 7 more European airports out of the 100 that see 3,4 million passengers per year - more on this in later posts.
The main reason, in my humble opinion, is: Airport Collaborative Decision Making is a way of life, not a stand-alone system. It's also about commonly agreed rules you feed that tool at the business end to facilitate the silent coordination process, and above all about the procedures to interpret the data that will allow you to start making collaborative decisions.
It's about an airline flight dispatcher agreeing on a target off-blocks time in collaboration with their handling agent. It's about a de-icing operator assessing the time to start de-icing after a loading team debrief. It's about a ramp services coordinator monitoring the target start-up approval time to dispatch their push back teams. And eventually, it will be about border control officials and passenger screening agents collaborating to guarantee a smooth transit during morning rush hour. Ultimately, the best toys focus on what a child can do with it, rather than what the toys can do.
Airport operations are volatile and unpredictable by algorithms. What do you think? Is the future of Airport Collaborative Decision Making jeopardized by lack of insight in operational processes and a mere focus on technology?
Share your thoughts in the comments area below.
Photo credit: APilotsEye
Note from the Editor: This is our last article for 2013 as we break for the holidays. Our next post will be on the 8th of January 2014. All of us at New Airport Insider wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2014 and thank you for being part of this community.