The party was welcomed by Stuart McVicar, the Operations Director of the Airport and then Mr. Richard Watson, the Terminal Manager gave a presentation during which he explained the complexities of airport terminal operation. He outlined the process taken from booking a flight to the point where the passenger boards the aircraft.
The starting point is the "plan". Planning starts with the twice yearly IATA conference when all airport operators and airlines get together to work out seasonal schedules. There are two schedules, one for winter and one for summer. Aircraft schedules are constrained by the availability of slots, both at the airport of departure and at the destination and this has a direct bearing on scheduling. In addition, the capacity of the airport and terminals has to be taken into account as well as aircraft capacity and load factors.
Richard Watson, Terminal Manager explaining how the airport information system works to members during the tour of the Glasgow Airport Terminal building.
© John G. Fender 2010
Glasgow is a level 2 category airport, able to handle a sustained throughput of 1,200 passenger per hour, with peaks of up to 2,000 passengers per hour whereas London Heathrow is a fully co-ordinated airport capable of handling a maximum of 3,100 passengers per hour. Glasgow handles between 10,000 passengers a day in November to a peak of 30,000 per day in July. In addition, runway capacity is a major factor and Glasgow is capable of handling 46 departures per hour.
The plan is subject to ongoing changes from airlines as there may be problems at other airports delaying flights, leading to the requirement to reallocate aircraft stands and reschedule all the ground services such as refuelling and catering etc. Baggage handling is also an important aspect and the aim is for arriving passengers to be able to reclaim their luggage with minimum delays.
Once the plan is finalized for the day, it is communicated to all staff concerned and the airport has invested heavily in the "AOS" computer system, with terminals giving detailed information provided for all staff. The availability of check in desks is also co-ordinated through the plan. Despite all the planning, there are often last minute changes and the computer system assists in communicating these changes effectively to all staff concerned. Feedback from staff is important, as is flow control.
An aircraft waiting on the apron at Glasgow Airport.
© John G. Fender 2010
Mr. Watson explained that there is no "landing charge" for aircraft. Instead the airport makes a charge to the airline on a per passenger basis plus a charge based on the weight of the aircraft at takeoff. The airport does not levy "airport supplements". The tour operator or airlines often make these. Since September 11, 2001, airport security has been tightened and this has an effect in that passengers take longer to check in. Mr. Watson explained the procedures taken to match passengers with luggage and what happens if there are any discrepancies.
The party was then given a tour of the areas behind the scenes and the members were able to see the x-ray machines and baggage handling conveyors in action. A visit was also made to ground control tower from where all ground movements of aircraft are controlled.
After the tour of the terminal facilities a buffet meal was provided and the members had an opportunity for further discussion on airport matters. The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks given by Neil Amner and each member was presented with a BAA tie and a copy of Glasgow Airport's souvenir book.
Report by John Fender.
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