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“Strategic Planning”

by Pete Ricondo, P.E. (Airport World, July 2009)

Note:  Shawn M. Kinder was the author of this article, but when it was printed, it was mistakenly attributed to Pete Ricondo. We have posted the article as it was printed.

Pete Ricondo provides a reminder of the importance of strategic planning in support of a capital development programme.

Airport management consistently faces competing demands for limited resources and capital in a world full of unknowns. A new runway, for example, can take a decade to build, but an airline business cycle runs half that time. Staff from with different departments with different responsibilities will invariably have opposing views of what is important. And while increasing airport revenues is a key goal, perhaps the public mission of expanding the airport’s route network may be the top priority.

Airport management is tasked with cost-effectively implementing long-term airport improvement or capacity expansion plans while efficiently operating an often city or quasi-government owned asset on a day-to-day basis.

In such circumstances, a strategic planning process may prove to be more than a useful tool for helping make those big decisions and to handle uncertainty or changing conditions in such a dynamic environment.

As shown on the chart below, when properly integrated into an airport setting, the strategic planning process serves as a guide and the foundation for other planning activities.

The airport strategic planning process is instrumental in developing a vision for how the airport will operate in the future. The process helps determine an airport’s competitive position, results in an action plan to accomplish the short and long-term objectives necessary to achieve the vision for the airport, and creates a series of tools that are helpful in managing the real-time activities of an airport.

During the course of the strategic planning process, airport management may also identify opportunities for product differentiation that necessitate the development of additional facilities. For example, the need to develop a stand alone, no-frills terminal for low-cost carriers (such as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s new South Terminal) might result from the strategic planning process.

The masterplanning process, when it is able to rely on a strategic planning process for definition of the airport’s vision, identification of its customer base and intended service offerings, can result in a facility plan that most appropriately fulfills the business objectives over a particular timeframe.

The absence of an integrated planning process increases the risk of wasting capital development funds on unnecessary projects that allow competing airports to gain a significant advantage by more effectively meeting the needs of passengers and airlines.

Strategic Planning
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