The impact of Low Cost Carriers on airports

Posted: 10 January 2014 | | No comments yet

As LLCs continue to expand their share in global air travel, Vicente Padilla of AERTEC Solutions, considers how airports can become more attractive to them…

During the last two decades, Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) have nibbled a good chunk of the air transport business on a global scale. According to IATA, LCCs are already reaching a 24 per cent share of seat capacity worldwide. The LCC segment represents around 50 per cent in Italy and Spain. Legacy companies, once the masters of the air transport business, have been swept away from the European short haul market in less than 10 years.

Gone are the golden years of exclusiveness in aviation. Champagne and caviar are seldom seen on board anymore. Chances are the passenger next to you may bring home-made sandwiches for the trip. Short-haul air transport has become a commodity. Many passengers are price driven. As a result, the airline company offering the lowest price will most likely make the deal.

In order to be able to offer such low rates, LCCs are compelled to become super-efficient at all levels, especially on the ground. Achieving 25-30 minute turnarounds are their goal. Airports targeting LCCs must adapt to this new business environment. Here are some tips:

  • Single runway airports are ideal for LCCs. This allows them to minimise taxi time after landing or before take-off
  • Aircraft stands located at cul-de-sacs accessible by a single taxiway must be eliminated. Aircraft need to move in and out unhindered anytime. Money is wasted waiting on the ground for someone else
  • People don’t mind waking up very early if that saves them money. Extending airport operations into the early hours of the morning and after midnight allows LCCs to crunch an additional flight into their daily schedule. This is good for LCCs as they benefit from making as many flights per day as possible
  • Aircraft stands must be within walking distance from the boarding gate – remote stands are to be avoided at all costs
  • Boarding passes and IDs must be checked in advance. This allows for expediting aircraft boarding. In order to do this, pre-boarding areas must be provided at each gate. It must be noted that pre-boarding is in conflict with airport commercial interests as passengers cannot continue to shop once they are ‘caged’ in these areas.

Some other rules may apply. LCCs demand cheap landing fees and the easiest way to offer them is by building cheap infrastructure. Terminal buildings have often been a showcase for politicians and architects. After all an airport is the entryway for tourists and businessmen. LCCs don’t care about fancy terminal buildings; they just demand efficiency on their daily ground operations.

Obviously, excellent ground communications are mandatory; freeways, a built-in railway station, a bus network, etc. An airport is just a node where air/ground modes of transportation meet.

Finally, LCC passengers are not cheapskates; they are just not willing to pay much for air travel. They like shopping like everybody else. Airports have a great chance of cashing in big bucks by providing large commercial areas. If money must be spent on some form of infrastructure, it should be on huge and fancy shopping malls.

About the author

Vicente Padilla has been General Manager at AERTEC Solutions since 1997. He is also an Aeronautical Engineer.

AERTEC Solutions is a multinational consultancy and engineering firm which specialises in aeronautics.

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