As airports face downtime now is the time to prepare for the future

airport downtime preparation

As airports face downtime now is the time to prepare for the future

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With the aviation industry facing unprecedented operational and financial challenges as a result of the Coronavirus, airports in particular are now contending with the prospect of low-to-no traffic (downtime) and under-utilisation of facilities. It is becoming increasingly clear that the industry will be much changed as a result of the current crisis, the question is by how much and how can airports prepare for the way ahead.

While we are putting in place multiple services and insights to help the industry weather the storm, we also see the current downtime as an opportunity for airports to plan and prepare for the mid-term, starting with one of the most critical aspects of their operations – IT infrastructure.

Is it possible to get more out of downtime?

As with many airports around the world, the current focus is almost certainly on operational financial survival. Yet, part of that also entails readying the business for the potential changes likely to take effect as a result of lockdown measures and as economies gradually lift some restrictions and re-establish if not strengthen supply-chain and other operations.

In moving to what one might term the ‘getting the house in order’ phase, it is essential that airports as with other entities tackle those elements of their businesses that typically get pushed down the agenda during day-to-day operations; IT infrastructure being one of these.

Even with the potential adaptations to airports in terms of social distancing, passenger monitoring, more efficient utilisation of facilities and the uncertainty of technological developments all airports must start by getting a clearer understanding of their existing IT infrastructure. The effects of major incidents over the years have shown that IT infrastructure can no longer be an afterthought. Quite the opposite, they need to be viewed as a way forward considering the potential changes to health-screening that may come online at airports for example.

The Airports Council International (ACI) recently published their advisory with recommendations on IT practices that support this thinking. They have noted and advised that ‘a number of airports are electing to do some system maintenance and upgrades that would normally have to be done during night time hours or when the terminal is not in use. These should be considered, especially if they do not require onsite personnel’.

Understanding where you’re at – preparing for the next phase

At NACO, we have developed the IT HealthCheck – which you may know if you have been following our recent blog series – which we have now deployed for a number of airport projects. We are finding that now is the best time to carry out this kind of work, especially because it can provide you with the full scope of your IT infrastructure and where it stands in terms of maintenance and upgrade needs. As ACI have noted, works that might ordinarily be carried out at night and at greater cost, can now be completed during the day. With terminals being quieter than usual, this means less impact on operations.

In fact, it can also mean less contact as we observe social distancing measures. We have also been able to complete IT HealthChecks remotely by working together with airport IT departments to gather the information needed. The results are then analysed in detail by our experts.

All in all, getting a thorough understanding of your IT infrastructure and its complexities now can help to avoid potential issues down the line as you plan your airport restart and build resilience into your operations.

Reap the benefits of resilience

Without understanding the status of your IT infrastructure, it is almost impossible to know what actions to take next. This inevitably increases the potential for risk to your systems. Carrying out this kind of work and feeding the outcomes directly into your future planning can be beneficial in building operational resilience for airports.

It is too early to tell what travel will look like after COVID-19, but we can be fairly sure it needs to be different – even if this is just for a limited period. Those airports that invest in preparing now, will be able to hit the ground running and ultimately reap the benefits of their resilience. And, as the ACI recommends, IT systems and infrastructure – whether maintaining, upgrading or building anew – should be a key part of that resilience.

If you’re interested in discussing what resilience might look like for your airport, get in touch with us today or drop me a message and let’s see if we can support.



Ivo Schram, Project Manager Special Airport Systems