In the aviation industry and indeed in the larger business context, systems and market dynamics have resulted into competition. The pressure for institutions, organizations and businesses to be efficient and competitive can be explained partly to emanate from globalization, improved infrastructure and the liberalization of markets in the world. Consequently, businesses have had to put their best in terms of efficiency in delivery of services and commodities. In the aviation industry, airports have had their fair share of the pressure. In reaction to the same, it has been incumbent on the airport management to ensure efficiency. In the quest to satisfy the same, the management of airports have had to harness the resources at their disposal including an application of an approach that is diversified and inclusive in nature. It is this paper’s contention that the competitiveness and profitability of an airport can be achieved and enhanced through efficient management of its resources. This paper would canvass these areas with a broader perspective that exams all business related to the airports that need to be incorporated in increasing efficiency. This is with an aim of enhancing the overall profitability and competitiveness.
The prime mandate of airports lies in its aviation roles. The airport in this context suffices for purposes of facilitating the passengers travel through the airlines. This means the airports on the surface are intended to act as terminuses for the airlines. Indeed, the nature of aircraft dictates that their stoppage and duration on the ground is within a properly prepared and protected area. This essentially is the biggest role that airports do. Unlike other transport facilities like vehicles, bicycles and the like, aircraft need specially designed and protected areas for their stoppage and stay on the ground. In addition, the security concerns necessitated by air travel occasion specific checks. Moreover, there are conditions that ought to be satisfied both on the passengers’ side and the airlines. This remains the prime mandate of any airport. In order to gain efficiency and profitability, airports must harness its resources towards consumers` satisfaction. This can be achieved through a number of ways. These ways are briefly discussed in the next section.
The first resource that must be harnessed in the wake of seeking efficiency is the airport personnel. The logistics and complicated nature of aviation dictates for properly trained and experienced personnel. The personnel range from the pilots, to flight attendants, caterers, security officers, flight controllers, among others. These personnel must be effective in their service delivery. The management must equally work smartly. In such a scenario, the approach for efficiency is often multifunctional. This means that the management would be involved in the overall oversight and coordination of a diverse set of personnel. Effective airport management would require for the smoothening and harmonization of the functions. Perhaps at this point it would be more effective to provide an example for purposes of illustration. In the ideal airport management, managers would have to coordinate the interaction between different airlines. In an ideal airport, various airlines run by different companies work within the same precincts. This posits cases of joint or single sets of personnel. The joint personnel refer to the class of personnel that can be used across the board by all the airlines. On the other hand, single set of personnel applies for specific airlines. For the former group, their management would most likely fall under the auspices of the airport management. For efficiency and competitive service delivery, the airport management must properly manage them. Management includes issues of job profiling, job assignment and scheduling, job organization, control and regulation. A good example can be seen in the sight engineers at the airport charged with the responsibility of checking on the quality of aircraft before clearance for take-off. These engineers are expected to fall under the control and management of the airport management. This is for the simple reason that they need to protect the overall interest of the public. Consequently, it would be imprudent to confer their roles on the airlines who in most cases are motivated by their pursuit of profits over public interests.
In addition to the smooth harmonization and management of overlapping personnel, the airport management must also develop, maintain and advocate for effective infrastructure within the airport. Infrastructure can be categorized in three main groups. These are the support services, the technical infrastructure and the general infrastructure. It is imperative to note that the entire infrastructure contribute in different ways towards the overall efficiency of airports. In addition, the nature of their utility is what will determine the success and competitiveness of the airport in the long run.
Support services refer to the infrastructure that facilitates the aviation activities and concerns. In this regard, the infrastructure includes warehouses, aircraft spare parts, the control offices and equipment, the logistics management infrastructure, the monitoring and regulation equipment, among others. By their very nature, support services suffice for purposes of efficiency in the delivery of air services. Consider for example the warehouse. The warehouse provides facilitating services such as storage of spare parts that may be needed for maintenance and minor repairs, some amounts of fuel for the aircraft, and equipment employed in the overall flight maintenance and airport control,. Additionally, the warehouse may be used to store personnel protective gear and other facilitating equipment. From the list it is evident that while these services suffice for support only, their in-availability would go into affecting the efficiency and competitiveness of the airport. Posit a situation where aircraft need fuel but what available in the warehouse is insufficient. This would occasion take off delays. Taking off delay in aviation terms is not as simplistic as it sounds. It means that the airline has to cater for the passengers whose deadlines have been affected, the additional accommodation costs especially for passengers on transit, the need to incur overtime payment for employees who work over and above in covering the delays, among other inconveniences. In addition, it goes deep into reducing the image of the airport giving it a lower brand value.
The warehouse could also be used to manage cargo in transit. Ordinarily airports may as well be involved in the delivery and transportation of cargo especially the perishables and light cargo. In the modern world where security and trade policies have raised stakes, it is essential for the airports to provide for regulatory and checks on the products in transit. The warehouse could be equipped and designed for the overall check on the products before clearance for delivery. In the same vein, the warehouse must be equipped and designed for the temporary storage of commodities that have arrived but not yet picked by the recipients. These roles illustrate the central roles warehouses and other support services play in the ultimate delivery of services. It is indicative from these examples that the efficient management of these resources would contribute towards the profitability of the airports.
The technical infrastructure relates to the set of infrastructure that contributes towards the delivery of specific aviation services. In this respect technical infrastructure relates to items such as runways, the airport grounds for airlines, waiting and entry gates and floors, the control rooms, the scheduling equipment, the communication infrastructure, among other technical infrastructural components. It is the overall efficiency of this set of infrastructure that would impact on the profitability of the airport. These services go into determining how effective airports would be. For instance, the runways determine which type of aircraft can ply the route. They also verify how many can be accommodated and the degree of variance. A limited number of runways for instance mean only a limited number of aircraft can take off and touch down at the same time. The size of the runway also dictates the type of aircraft it can serve. It is essential, therefore, for airport management to design and construct runways in contemplation of the type of aircraft it wants to serve. A practical example lies in the airstrips which in many cases often cannot serve Boeings because of the limited sizes of runways.
Another essential technical infrastructure that ought to be explained further is the communication infrastructure. This is the organ of the airport. It will impact on the overall coordination and interaction between the airlines, the passengers, the airport management and the overall airport personnel. Effective communication contributes to effectiveness, cohesive and smooth running of operations and minimization of loss. Communication infrastructure is complex. It includes elements such as the mode of communication with the passengers waiting, transiting or exiting the airlines. Moreover, communication entails communication between various airlines and the airport management. The communication system would eliminate cases of lost passengers which is a common feat in the complex and international airports, avert security threats and risk occurrences in cases of emergencies, among other issues. In the long run, the communication infrastructure must be immediate and safe. Immediate because of the time limits imposed due to the departures and arrivals of the aircrafts and safe for purposes of securing the system against interception in the wake of immense terrorist activities.
Finally, in exhausting the technical infrastructure we need to examine the use of the entry and exit gates and floors. These refer to the floors that accommodate the passengers and airline personnel as they prepare the aircraft for departure or offload the aircraft upon arrival. This portion of the airport resource is essential in the ultimate delivery of services. The nature of equipment and the personnel training, overall working conditions and the flexibility of the resource will determine the ultimate airport competitiveness. The floors should be well designed to allow for interaction and comprehensive service delivery. Some of the services delivered in this place include the check in inspections and compliance tests, visa application and approvals, entry examinations, security compliance checks, among others. In order to improve on efficiency and competitiveness, the services must be tailored and anchored on modern management concepts and technologies. The airports must install systems that fasten processes and enable the fast delivery of services.
The general infrastructure relates to the additional services that are used in the delivery of aviation services. General in this case refers to the fact that such services are not unique to the aviation industry must find correlation and application in the overall industry. This line of services in some literature is referred to as non-aviation services. It is in the provision of the general services that an airport can demonstrate a difference between its effectiveness and that of others. Consequently, it can surmise to say that profitability and competitiveness of the airport can be harnessed through the meticulous provision of services. The next section shall discuss the various general infrastructure that inform this tertiary but significant component of airport infrastructure.
For starters, there are subsidiary services that passengers and airport personnel would require for the delivery of services. The services include the washroom facilities, hotel services, restaurant services, parking and communication.
This set of services is as useful as they are mundane for typical airports. However, an airport would cut a niche for itself in the manner in which they deliver these services. For instance, the washroom facilities must be first class, healthy and safe for human utility. Airport can offer these services in two main categories. The free services would only avail the basics. On the other hand, charged services avail specialized toilet and bathing facilities. The accommodation services can be provided in targeting the passengers on transit who have a long waiting time between the flights, or for cases of delayed and mixed flights issues or for the local personnel. The accommodation can be arranged in a manner that makes the client feel at home. In addition, it would be prudent for airport servicing to provide meeting facilities for clients who may want to meet each other while on transit. In many cases, these reservations are only made for the highly significant persons. However, in the wake of consumer consciousness and willingness to pay, such services should be extended to the ordinary passengers as well.
Hotel and restaurant services also fall within this category. It is essential for the airport management to provide hotel services. Hotel services include provision of foods, snacks, washrooms, accommodation, eateries, entertainment such televisions, movies and alcoholic beverages. The hotel segment could make millions of revenues for the airport and increase overall profitability if properly managed and designed. It is in the interest of the airport management that services in the hotel department are properly availed and effectively delivered. In addition, the hotel services could extent into supplying airlines with foods. In ordinary journeys huge distances covered necessitate that airlines serve food on the flight. The airport management could capitalise on these opportunities through the provision of foods and beverages to the airlines. These services if effectively and properly availed posit a situation where the airport enjoys high levels of profits.
The parking services are needed for the consumption of passenger transportation. This involves the taxi cabs that specialize in the delivery of passengers from the airport to their destinations in the cities and for families and friends who may come to collect and bid their loved ones good bye as the travel. Airports can collect some revenues from this small segment through the provisions of parking services that are charged. This would also reduce the inconveniences often occasioned by passengers and their relations who park their vehicles in the airports almost for the whole of their stay outside the country or cities.
In addition to the parking services, another general service that is essential is the communication. This refers to the booths and mobile services communication. Ordinarily passengers do not travel with their cellular phones. This can be explained perhaps by the fact that different countries often use different interfaces and protocols making the mobile gadgets incompatible. In addition, it is the general rule that phones should be off while the aircraft are in the air. For this reason, the airport management should provide communication facilities at a cost. These facilities would be employed by passengers on transit and or during departures and arrivals. In the long run, the efficiency of the airport would be affected as the passengers are more coordinated and informed. This reduces cases of jamming the airport, lost passengers of crowding of the airport resources.
Other than the general services, airports may need to enhance their profitability through the provision of specialized services. However, these specialized services need to be provided through an integrated approach that not only employs the airport resources. The provisions would require various external agencies and institutions justified by the nature of the services. Some of these specialized services include trading stores, banking automated teller machines, forex exchange services, advertisements, utilities, rentals, among others. By their nature, these services fall outside the domain of aviation services. However, they facilitate activities relate to passenger necessities while on transit. The following section will briefly examine how these services can contribute to the profitability of the airports.
The trading stores ought to be given to sellers who deal in duty free commodities. These commodities often target high end travellers who in most cases often have the means and ability to afford the goods. The airport can earn some revenues in the form of rentals charged on these trading stores. The banking facilities such as automated teller machines and the forex exchanges are intended to provide the passenger with finances. A typical passenger travelling across countries would be lacking the visiting countries’ currency and would need forex exchanges. Forex transactions often earn the airports revenues in terms of commissions. On the other hand, for local travellers, they would use the automated teller machines to access their funds.
Another rich area that could earn the airport additional revenues is the advertising services. In advertising the airport allows advertising companies to set up their signs and paintings in the airport vicinities. These enhance overall profitability through the revenues accrued in the form of advertising fees.
In conclusion, it has been brought out in the paper that the success of the airport depends on the efficiency of the management. Profitability and competitiveness can be achieved through a comprehensive and deliberate harness of the resources. The management has the opportunity of employing progressive and efficient managerial doctrines and theory for the overall successful management of the airports. However, as postulated in the paper, the efficiency of the airports depends heavily of the managerial discipline of the management.
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