The National Academies

ACRP 03-62 [Completed]

A Toolkit for Establishing Airport Catchment Areas

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Research Agency: Purdue Unitversity
Principal Investigator: Yi Gao
Effective Date: 6/4/2021
Completion Date: 6/30/2023


An airport’s catchment area is the area around an airport from which it can reasonably expect to attract customers. An accurate estimation of an airport’s catchment area enables operators and airlines to make informed decisions, target potential markets, and aid in forecasting activity. An airport’s catchment area is dynamic, may change over time, and is influenced by many factors, including ground access, air service and airfares, distance from population centers, demographics, and proximity to other airports.  An airport may even have distinct catchment areas for different passenger market segments (e.g., business travel, international travel).  Often, an airport must rely on costly and time-consuming approaches to estimate its catchment areas.

Emerging technologies are reimagining and reinventing the industry. Such tools may help airports determine their catchment areas that may still be largely unrealized and untested. While many airports have defined catchment areas from prior studies, research is needed to guide airports on the application of these tools and other methodologies that can better reflect emerging trends, optimize increasingly limited resources, and aid airports to better establish their catchment areas.


The objective of this research is to develop a toolkit that will help an airport establish their unique catchment area. The toolkit should include a guide to utilizing resources, in addition to providing analytical methods and approaches that would best map a catchment area. At a minimum, the toolkit should include resources that:

• Assess the potential effects and trends that may determine a catchment area;
• Create methodology and catchment area models to address identified effects and trends. Such methodology and models should be defendable to a variety of stakeholders (i.e., airlines, local board or advisory committee, etc.);
• Are easily used and understood by practitioners with varying degrees of expertise;
• Contain data that is utilized by the airlines; and
• Encompass data collected from new and emerging technology.
The guide should:

• Define and explain the resources included in the toolkit;
• Provide steps on how to use the resources, such as cleaning, verifying, and visualizing the data; and
• Address the adaptability of the data sources that may be updated and maintained from time to time.


The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are asked to develop and include a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.

The research plan should include appropriate deliverables, for ACRP approval, that include at minimum:

1. An example of a catchment area study of an airport located in a dynamic environment for the purpose of comparison and contrast.

2. An interim report that describes work done in early tasks, including an explanation of their methodology used in their planned deliverable, and an updated work plan for remaining tasks.  All of this should demonstrate to the panel the thought process behind how the final deliverables will address the components outlined in the objective.

The research plan should include other appropriate checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate. 
The final deliverables will include: (1) a toolkit including a guide that meets the requirements as stated in the objective; and (2) (a) a Summary of Key Findings; (b) a Further Recommended Research Memo; and (c) a technical memo titled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.

Status: Research complete.  Results expected to be published in late 2023.


To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=5028