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Data used to maximize gate utilization enhances operational reliability and the traveler experience

September 27, 2021

Discover how Cirium Sky helps airports and airlines access the data they need to identify issues impacting operational reliability and maximize gate utilization.

By Jim Hetzel, Head of Product Management, Cirium

When it comes to responsive tactics to navigate shifts in passenger supply and demand, understanding and maximizing gate utilization plays an essential role for both the operational efficiency and profitability of airports and airlines and their ability to deliver a first-class traveler experience.

Effective gate utilization is synonymous with fast and efficient passenger flow and aircraft turns. But the fact is many service development planners on the airport side and airline network planners are flying partially blind. So, what’s blocking the way?

Firstly, it’s helpful to know the system widely adopted within the U.S. does not usually apply to airports and airlines outside North America. In the U.S., most major airlines lease specific gates at an airport. For example, Delta Air Lines might have its own terminal with gates 1-50. These dedicated spaces are branded and fully staffed by the airlines themselves, which means they have total control within their own allotted space but little to no movement beyond that designated area.

At other airports worldwide, gates are not usually leased, they are common use, which means there is far more flexibility: if one gate is busy, an airline can switch to another. For these international airports, when we talk about gate utilization, the focus is on helping them to gain the data and insights they need to effectively respond to passenger traffic and volume. In the U.S., an airline cannot use another airline’s leased gate, even if that gate is available. Hence, the priority for enhanced gate utilization for U.S. airports is to help them use their gates efficiently for passenger flow and to drive maximum food and beverage and retail sales at the airport.

That being said, a lack of comprehensive real-time data can negatively impact both airport and airline operations in all markets worldwide.

What are the pain points for airports?

A lack of reliable data creates blind spots across multiple areas of operations, hampering an airport’s ability to maximize revenue potential. Airports are often dependent on the data reports supplied to them by the airlines and these reports can fail to provide the full picture. Self-reporting by airlines may not always deliver all the insights required – and to be fair, it can be a tall order for airlines to provide everything an airport needs (and in a timely manner) as there are so many moving parts. These ‘data gaps’ cause friction all the way down the line…

  • It impacts all staffing – the ability to efficiently assign resources to match the peaks and valleys of passenger flow in the airports
  • Delayed, inaccurate or incomplete reported flight information can impact accurate billing and reconciliation of landing and other airport fees
  • Ground handling operations are inefficient – deep, real-time insights on what gates are being used and by what aircraft type is vital for planning for the right ground staff to be in the right place at the right time
  • Not understanding where your passengers are/when they’re coming through results in poor passenger experience
  • For U.S. airports: When negotiating gate lease rates for airlines, they lack insights on the real value of the asset to the airline
  • They can’t plan the layout of their airport to maximize flow of passengers for retail and food & beverage revenue

What are the pain points for airlines?

The frictions are similar in terms of delivering a smooth and efficient passenger experience and challenges with resourcing. Airlines need to know they’ve got the right personnel at the right gate – and if the gate is best suited to a particular aircraft type such as widebodies.

How does Cirium Sky solve these challenges?

Cirium Sky is designed to deliver all relevant data to identify and manage issues impacting airport and airline operational reliability. Comprising three key data feeds from a single source of truth – schedules data, flights data (current and historical) and fleet information – it enables a 360-degree view of the peaks and valleys of passenger flow. This includes insights on when (days and specific times of day) high volumes of passengers will be at the airport, and which are the busiest gates. Our data solution is both comprehensive and unbiased.

This helps airports with operational planning:

  • Allocate the right numbers of staff to the busiest gates for smoother operations
  • Direct airlines to the right gates to avoid/alleviate bottlenecks
  • Ensure they offer parking facilities that are closest to the gates/reduce walking distance to gates
  • Plan the position of retail and F&B outlets/types of goods sold and resourcing in line with passenger volume and anticipated expenditure (e.g. passengers taking international flights spend more than those taking domestic/short haul flights)

The benefits for airlines

Cirium data and insights provide airlines with accurate information about how long each of their aircraft were on the ground and how many flights per day were served at specific gates. This enables airlines to:

  • Track real-time estimates of passenger flow for fast, efficient turn around
  • Understand the real value of the assets they’re leasing (U.S. airlines) and re-negotiate lease rates with airports in the event a gate is under-utilized. Airlines are looking to get around four-six flights a day out of a leased gate – a gate that’s only serving one flight a day is not cost-effective
  • Analyze historical operational patterns such as taxi times, congestion, overnighted stays and turn times across all airline partners and competitors

Our data is ready to go – are you?

In addition to the data you need to improve gate utilization, Cirium Sky also provides you with instant access to flagship data from The Cirium Core.

Use case scenarios for airlines include data for delivering seamless operations with regional and airline partners, analysing and adjusting block times and competitive benchmarking.


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