Don't Forget About Landside

Forrest Swonsen
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As national director for TransCore's Airport Systems & Services, Forrest Swonsen facilitates the adoption and use of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) in air and landside operations. His 12-year tenure with the company includes the world's first use of wireless RFID technology to pay for airport parking at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Prior to joining TransCore, Swonsen served in senior sales and marketing positions with the Missile and Space Systems Group of Kaiser Aerospace and the Government Systems group of ADT Security Systems.

Without a doubt, the last two years have seen extraordinary changes in every aspect of our lives. No matter where you turn or whom you speak to, there are major economic, social and political changes happening almost daily that have directly impacted our industry and the traveling public we work to serve. If the great Yogi Berra was still with us to offer his unique worldview, he might say: "Constant change is with us ... and that's not going to change anytime soon."

In almost all cases, these changes impact revenue generation for airports. In this era of fiscal austerity and constant challenges to federal, state and municipal budgets, two comments come through most often from airport executives: "We need to increase non-aeronautical revenue" and "We have to do more with less; work smarter." Let me share three examples of how to accomplish this.

Recently, one of our larger airport clients developed a program to assume the regulation and permitting of all for-hire and liveried transport services in its metropolitan area. The airport already regulated most of the operators serving the airport. It had also invested heavily in state-of-the art automated vehicle identification (AVI) tracking equipment and software tools and had developed business processes and procedures to support the regulatory mission. That infrastructure, combined with a knowledgeable, experienced staff, allowed the airport to assume the additional workload with minimal impact to ongoing operations and recover additional costs through an agreement with the city. It was a classic "win-win" for both stakeholders. Such outsourcing could also apply to other operations, such as parking management or virtually any core competency that your airport has developed - landside or airside.

Over the last 10 years, a lot of discussion has occurred about "regional interoperability" models for transportation. The models call for airports, regional toll agencies, municipalities and other stakeholders to coalesce into technology "clusters" using common AVI, intelligent transportation systems and back-office customer service tools for parking and ground transportation revenue management. The DFW Metroplex, where I call home, has been developing this kind of regional model since the late 1990s with great success. The model can reduce operation costs, increase customer service and provide additional revenue to your airport. With the increasing use of enabling technologies by transportation agencies across the country, more infrastructures exist than ever before, and the cost to participate has never been lower. If you haven't investigated the opportunities in your region, now might be the right time.

Late last year, I participated in a conference focusing on interoperability between airports and passenger cruise ship operations. In addition to security, baggage handling and other common issues, there were several excellent forums about better integration of passenger transportation services between cruise ship terminals and airports. One of the most interesting aspects of the discussions was how little attention cruise terminals pay to managing ground transportation operators and curbside utilization. Airports, on the other hand, devote significant attention to these areas from the standpoint of customer service, revenue generation and regulatory compliance. The technology, processes and expertise that airports have developed in landside operations can be leveraged to deliver these services to cruise terminals via some type of revenue sharing or operating agreement. If you don't have a cruise terminal in your area, perhaps another large venue could use your landside expertise.

So, think about how well your airport is leveraging landside operations, in terms of customer service and revenue generation opportunities. More often than not, it's passengers' first and last experience with your airport. From a customer service standpoint, its importance cannot be overstated. Looking at the landside part of your operation in a new way can both increase revenue and reduce costs.

I look forward to seeing you curbside!

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