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SAFETY & SECURITY Last modified on November 26, 2018

The next big thing?

Privatised airports are turning to ‘airside integrators’ to help them reduce costs, increase safety and boost efficiency, writes ICAO safety consultant, Dr Fethi Chebil.

A new trend to evolve from airport privatisation is the emergence of companies dedicated to managing and integrating an airport’s complex airside safety systems, reducing its operational costs and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Airside activities at airports are, of course, highly regulated and subject to a government enforcement process, and this has led to an ever-increasing number of private airport operators successfully transferring the risk of regulatory compliance and safety to a new type of dedicated cost-effective company – the ‘airside integrator’.

These companies have the expertise and know-how to manage, operate, inspect and maintain the certification requirements of the airside activities, including:

  • Regulatory compliance: They are able to deal proactively with government agencies – including interaction with civil aviation inspectors and auditors – to track the continuous updating of regulations and ensure simplified and easy-to-deploy access to an international data base of evolving local and international airport related rules and regulations.
  • Inspection and maintenance, reporting and monitoring: They provide a core team of inspectors, operators and on-site agents supported by internationally deployed experts using the most advanced safety and compliance management systems.
  • Cost effectiveness: As ‘airside integrators’ operate airside at airports across the world and own proprietary safety management systems, the development and deployment cost are shared among a global network of projects and sites – everyone wins.

These companies are called ‘airside Integrators’ for good reason. A wide range of stakeholders are involved in airside operations: ground handlers, airlines, contractors, inspectors, security services and government agencies, and very few companies can provide an efficient implementation capability to ensuring safety and compliance among all these actors.

Dedicated ‘airside integrators’, however, can take charge of aligning all stakeholders toward safety and compliance, integrating different communication and reporting techniques, workshops, on-site and remote monitoring, advanced SMS systems, training and awareness.

Indeed, their focused expertise provides credibility and comfort, their integrated systems provide efficiency and their network brings cost effectiveness. The ‘airside integrator’ thus enables the private investors to transfer the risk of managing the airside to a properly equipped, specialised and cost-effective company.


Business model

The business model of these new companies is built around mitigating two main risks, as shown in Figure 1 (above), which provides details on the value proposition related to the private sector risks.

Airport private investors have expressed concerns about dealing with government agencies and regulators.

Issues of concern include the uncertainty related to aleatory and arbitrary certification requirements and random, unstructured and non-transparent regulatory enforcement processes which induce unforeseen costs and unwelcome distractions.

However, the global network and proprietary safety management systems (reporting, data bases, resources and consultants) of an ‘airside integrator’ are built to address the concerns of private investors and to mitigate the risks related to airside operations in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Figure 2 illustrates the business model of the ‘airside integrator’.


Results speak louder than words

In terms of regulatory compliance, during the first 18 months of using an airport integrator, some gateways have recorded a 150% increase in the reporting of hazards; a 45% rise safety awareness (based on the hazards reported, including speeds); and a 25% reduction in safety violations.

With respect to inspection and maintenance, reporting and monitoring, in one case 76 risk assessments were carried out during the first year of operations and  the risk mitigation plans developed by the airside integrator were accepted and deployed by all stakeholders.

And in terms of cost effectiveness, the operational costs for airports using an airport integrator typically fall by between 10% to 15%. The figure is based on the assessment of the performance of seven airports to have brought an airport integrator onboard.

These include Jeddah–King Abdulaziz and Riyadh–King Khalid international airports in Saudi Arabia where operators of the private terminals, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and Private Aviation Saudi Arabia (PASA), have transferred the risk of the airside operations and dealing with the certification requirements to the airside integrator, Airside Safety Operations International (ASOI).

Other airports to use an airport integrator include Dubai International Airport, London Heathrow (for some airside operations) and Dzaoudzi-Pamandzi International Airport on the French island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.

Strategic view

A private airport owner’s decision to transfer the risk of managing airside operations to a dedicated and properly equipped structure, can be a wise decision. Why? Because this is a new business trend that adds an increased level of expertise, safety, efficiency and accountability to the airport business.

As a dedicated and focused service provider, the airside integrator will provide continuous association to, and ensure the support of, international agencies like ICAO and ACI for and with airport private-sector owners. 

About the author

Dr Fethi Chebil works as an airport safety consultant for ICAO and is a former vice president of airports for SNC-Lavalin. He has over 20 years of experience of working on airport PPP projects.


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