Alison FitzGerald, London City Airport's Chief Operating Officer, has combined data, analytics and business intelligence to maximise flight and passenger numbers through the airport.
In 2017 her team analysed key aircraft metrics including schedules, departure times and arrivals. They then provided ACL (the global aircraft slot co-ordinator) with trend analysis, and achieved her objective of obtaining different slot times across the London City schedule, with the airport gaining the best on-time performance in 2017 of any UK airport as a result.
Maximising an annual throughput of 4.5 million passengers across an airport designed for 100,000 is no easy feat. To cope, FitzGerald has helped made the airport smarter. Her 2017 initiatives included using call-to-gate to ease congestion in the departure lounge. To optimise security capacity and address the lack of physical queuing space, she implemented new people processing and flow optimisation; the airport can now handle 320 passengers an hour (Frankfurt does 80).
With more connecting passengers using London City in summer 2017 than ever, FitzGerald and her function deployed business intelligence to better understand the heavier passenger flows, the flights most affected and the scale of the resulting baggage challenge. The improvement initiatives then undertaken allowed the airport to process 5,568 bags on the peak day at Christmas compared with a summer peak of 4,129 bags.
FitzGerald has been the driving force behind the installation of a digital air traffic control system – for some commentators the future of air traffic control. When the digital control tower is introduced in 2019, it will put a wealth of real-time information at controllers' fingertips. A 360-view of the airfield from cameras will be streamed via superfast secure fibre connection to the control room, and presented on HD screens in a seamless 270-degree format, so controllers can even see what's behind them. Aircraft call signs will be overlaid, moving objects (from helicopters to drones) tagged and tracked, and taxiways marked out by on-screen labels.
Such tools enhance the safety and efficiency of operations, promoting speedy decision-making, which in turn increases aircraft movement efficiency. FitzGerald's ultimate purpose is to safeguard the airport's 20-minute door-to-plane proposition while accommodating up to two million additional passengers.
London City Airport is also trialling AI solutions to assign planes to stands. A dynamic stand allocation solution combines key incoming data with aircraft destination info; by building in historical data, LCY can teach the system to make smarter turnaround decisions and add capacity at peak times. The airport added another aircraft movement per hour in 2017, and should be able to add another in 2019, leading to 40 movements an hour, which ultimately increases revenue.