The National Academies

ACRP 03-60 [Active]

Incorporating Shock Events into Aviation Demand Forecasting and Airport Planning

  Project Data
Funds: $450,000
Staff Responsibility: Matthew J. Griffin
Research Agency: InterVISTAS Consulting Inc.
Principal Investigator: Ian Kincaid
Effective Date: 8/4/2021
Completion Date: 2/3/2023

Traditional airport forecasting and planning are largely based on long-term trends, assume gradual and incremental change, and generally do not reflect the possibility of an unpredicted shock event. Shock events go beyond what is normally expected in a situation and are characterized by their rarity and potential for severe impacts and long-lasting consequences.   These events can significantly disrupt the aviation industry and in the past have led to material structural changes throughout the industry.  Anticipating the nature, timing, and scale of such events is impossible, but they are not without precedent and are very challenging to respond to. 
While the industry has generally adapted to these events and traffic eventually continued to grow, the impacts for many airports have been profound and long-lived. These impacts have typically included a significant change in or loss of air passenger demand and revenue, increased costs, and passenger processing requirements. Impacts have not been uniform, affecting some airports more than others. In fact, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, there have been positive outcomes such as the growth in air cargo.
While this project is meant to help airports understand and address significant national or global shock events, methodologies developed for this research may be used by airports to respond to regional and local challenges as well.
The objectives of this research are to produce a guidebook and methodology to help airports understand and account for potential shock events in forecasts and planning. These objectives should support the preparation of analyses to better forecast and plan for such events and support airports when reacting and recovering from them. Additionally, the guidebook should provide a discussion of the COVID-19 Pandemic including (1) how the impacts of the pandemic on airports compare to other recent, profound shock events (e.g., September 11 terrorist attacks, the Great Recession of 2007-2009); and (2) possible resultant structural changes to traffic patterns, customer demographics, business models, facility requirements, operating procedures, etc. The guidebook and the methodology should be targeted at airport operators, planners, designers, and other stakeholders involved in operations and capital planning, managing, and financing of airports.
The guidance should allow practitioners to consider at a minimum:
  • How different types of shock events may have different impacts on different types of airports (large/medium/small hubs, cargo v. passenger) including considerations for the different types of aviation users at each airport (commercial passengers, cargo, general aviation, military, etc.);
  • Short- and long-term impacts on an airport user’s fleet mix and how that affects the whole airport campus, airfield and terminal planning, arterial roads, airport finances, and commercial tenants;
  • Potential opportunities during a shock event and how they can be leveraged;
  • Specific inputs for use in airport forecasting to reflect shock events, including studying the interaction of shock events with the input variables that are commonly used in forecasting; and
  • Developing a more resilient airport business model.


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