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Helping airports plan their recovery

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Study by EUROCONTROL and partners highlights actions to improve performance when implementing COVID-19 measures.

BRUSSELS - In order to reduce the impact of COVID-19 measures on airport performance, and so contribute to aviation’s overall recovery from the pandemic, airports need to focus on reducing the impact of space constraints and national authorities need to harmonise measures across EU Member States, according to a study published today by EUROCONTROL

The study, commissioned from the Airport Research Center (ARC), aims to help airports understand the impact of implementing COVID-19 measures on airport performance. In collaboration with ACI Europe and other industry partners, the study assessed the impact of these measures on terminal operations, in particular passenger journey time, terminal throughput and boarding gate processing capacity.

Eamonn Brennan, EUROCONTROL DG commented: “This report is a valuable practical contribution to recovery. It provides airports with a detailed set of process assessments indicating where they need to focus as traffic recovers. It highlights the vital importance of harmonisation of measures for air travel, key to passenger confidence and efficiency.”

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe said: “We are extremely grateful to EUROCONTROL for having followed our suggestion to look into the impact of COVID-19 measures on airport performance. This is a very important piece of work not just for airports but for the entire aviation system. Airport capacity issues are set to become a major constraining factor for the system when demand for air traffic picks up. This study gives a clear understanding of what lies ahead in this regard and what kind of mitigation measures need to be considered. We look forward to keep working closely with EUROCONTROL and all operational partners.”

With key inputs from ARC, ACI Europe and four airports/airport groups (Paris CDG, London Heathrow, Stuttgart and Swedavia), as well as the support of IATA, the ARC study used detailed simulations to model the potential effect of COVID measures across airport processes.

“Health and safety is our number one priority and the aviation industry has taken firm action to safeguard the health of travellers, staff and crew during the coronavirus pandemic. These measures, including increased sanitization and social distancing, inevitably impact on airport capacity and aircraft scheduling. We welcome this study from EUROCONTROL, which gives valuable insight into the practical impact of COVID-19 health measures and provides airports, airlines, and policy-makers with vital data for future planning. It’s important we now take this information and work together to minimize capacity impacts,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.

The results show that, for the same passenger numbers in a pre-COVID queue,

  • 50% more space is required at check-in
  • 100% more space at security control
  • 35-50% more space at boarding gates
  • Up to 10 minutes additional time to the departing passenger journey
  • 100% more space at immigration
  • 30-50% more space for baggage reclaim
  • 5-20 minutes additional time to the arriving passenger journey
  • Additional measures are needed to mitigate impact if health checks are required for arrivals/transfers. 

The main conclusions of the study are: 

  • Airports need to focus on key limiting components - security control/immigration in terms of throughput challenges, and boarding gates and baggage reclaim in terms of space constraints. 
  • Airports already congested before the COVID crisis can expect to reach their maximum saturation capacity at just 60-75% of their peak 2019 traffic. 
  • To avoid further delays and conflicting requests to passengers, greater harmonisation in terms of COVID measures supporting passenger safety and re-building trust is essential across EU Member States. 
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Helping airports plan their recovery