The Opportunity Afforded by Opening

Suzanne Phelps

At long last, the day has arrived…your brand-new, state-of-the-art terminal is open. Thanks to hard work and a great team, Opening Day was smooth as silk. Congrats! Back to business as usual? No, unless you wish to forego the extraordinary opportunity in front of you. As they say, the best is yet to come!

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Suzanne Phelps is managing partner for Chrysalis Global Aviation, a firm that specializes in managing smooth transitions for new and renovated airport facilities. She views operational readiness as a critical, yet often overlooked, component of airport capital programs.

If this is your first airport opening (or even if it isn’t), you may be tempted to call it a day once everything is up and running. Before you do, ask yourself: What makes this moment in time special? For starters, your facility will never be newer or cleaner than it is right now. You’ve got a great team in place that has already formed, stormed, normed and performed. And you have the closest thing to a blank slate you’ll ever have. Now is the time to optimize! The sky is the limit, but first take a look at specific benefits just waiting to be gained through post-opening training, enhanced facility maintenance practices and keeping the project team intact.

Drinking From a Firehose Only Works for Burning Buildings

Here’s the rub: Most homo sapiens can only absorb so much information at one time. A new terminal can include a hundred new systems and thousands of new pieces of equipment. Add to that procedural changes, wayfinding and where to use (ahem) the “facilities,” and there’s a lot to take in! 

Because the goal of pre-opening training is to achieve operational readiness, end users are unlikely to have internalized the additional knowledge required to “take it to the next level.” Enter post-opening training and optimization. Live operations give rise to questions like “How can I do this better?” Once staff members have developed a comfort level in their new surroundings, they are better able to hone their skills. 

And remember, you’ll see turnover during this transition. Some long-timers may opt out of the changes ahead, leaving you with newbies thrashing in the deep end. Post-opening training reinforces pre-opening learning, enhances methods and techniques, incorporates passenger feedback and provides an excellent forum for addressing problems and inefficiencies before workarounds become institutionalized.

Catalyst for Change

A new facility provides an ideal jumping-off point to re-envision facility maintenance, set tenant expectations and achieve new heights in operational efficiency and passenger satisfaction. For example, do current processes lend themselves to keeping your new crown jewel pristine? If not, hit “reset” and up your game. 

Consider Airport X: In the months (well, years) preceding its new terminal opening, maintenance standards had slipped in deference to critical corrective action. Further, ownership of tasks had become inconsistent over time. The solution? Clear and consistent assignment of responsibilities with contract-prescribed standards and remedies. 

All the planning that occurs prior to opening should be followed by new inspection processes (including detailed matrices for custodial and preventive maintenance) that are vetted and refined after an opening. 

Inertia as Your Bestie

Newton teaches us that an object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force. Similarly, your readiness team has achieved mind-blowing momentum leading up to opening. A cohesive team (like a mind) is a terrible thing to waste. This crew has a shared history, a common vocabulary and a collective head full of ideas that may not have been investigated in the rush to open the terminal. It will never be cheaper or more convenient than right now to boost efficiency and passenger satisfaction. Keep the band together!

I Can’t Think About This Right Now 

When you are staring down the barrel of a major opening, discussing anything beyond the Big Day may seem daunting. But the message here is an encouraging one: While ensuring uninterrupted operations on Day One is paramount, plenty of runway remains. The team that carried you across that Opening Day finish line already has a list of opportunities to explore. So…what’s next

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