Posted: July 19th, 2023

Technological Advancement and Globalization

Technological advancement and globalization, the demand of travelling across the borders has drastically increased. It is common among people around the world to travel from one city to another or from one country to another for leisure, business, diplomatic purposes, pilgrimage, education and meeting friends and family etc. For this reason the demand for various modes of travel has also increased over a period of time.

Travellers today are very picky and choosy about their mode of travel based on various factors that include speed, luxury, amenities, comfort safety and security and cost. Air travel is beyond doubt the most preferred mode of travel by most travellers. For this reason development of airlines and airports has been one of the important issues of concern for most governments. Provision of adequate level of aviation services of high standard quality does not only help in attracting tourism but also generating more revenue for the economy. Considerations regarding provision of range of services at airports and in flight are therefore trend of the day.

While luxury and comfort are one of the most sought after components, after the aviation attacks on September 11, 2011, the threat of terrorist activities have increased and therefore safety and security restrictions have been an integral part of airport planning. In many cases extension of security measures resulted in a compromise on other areas such as space and comfort. Since both cannot be compromised on and both are equally important, it is essential that airport planners create a stable balance between the two when planning a terminal. Level of Service is an important standard that helps in maintain a balance between various components such as timely flights, level of service and comfort and free flow. The aim of this paper is therefore to identify different areas of functionality and service while airport planning and designing and to identify a pragmatic level of service that keeps a balance in all areas of functional and luxury services provided at the airports.


Concept of Level of Service

The concept of level of service is primarily a set of standards laid down by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). These set of standards act as a measure of comfort, facilities, functionality and security provided at a certain passenger terminals. The level of service ranges from level A to level F where level A indicates excellence and level F indicates inadequacy of service provided. The higher a terminal ranks at its level of service, the better it is considered in terms of providing comfort, practicality, functionality and security at the same time. In general, the overall level of service is measured in three areas which include the flow of passengers in the terminal, the degree to which delays take place and the level of comfort provided to the passengers.

A passenger terminal is a host to two kinds of passengers, that is, the departing passengers and the arriving ones. The range of functional areas required for both types of passengers are different in nature and therefore they are to be dealt separately. In cases of connecting flights, an arriving passenger is also a departing passenger. Therefore, the first thing which airport planners are required to consider is the need to allow a free flow of both these types of passengers through well separated functional units and the ease with which transit passengers can be guided to the departure area without interrupting the flow and without causing the delays.

The second major aspect that must be taken into account while designing a passenger terminal is its cost effectiveness. Not only the initial cost of a terminal, which usually is spread over a very large area, is high, but also the maintenance cost also consumes a considerable proportion of the finances. A pragmatic layout that helps in cost effectiveness is therefore required.

An ideal passenger terminal layout would be one that not only satisfies the requirements of an A category level of service, but is also cost effective at the same time. Such a passenger terminal should have characteristics such as allowance for future expansions, centralised airline, shorter walking distances, efficient security checks, smooth flow and no congestion, cost effective with little need of extra labour, and easy and safe baggage handling systems should be ensured.

Functional Areas and Services in a Modern Passenger Terminal

The first functional area that an outward immigrating passenger has to go through is the check-in counter. In order to ensure a smooth flow through out, efficiency is required from the very first stage. In conventional airports linear or walkthrough check-in counters are a norm (Lyth 2004). In newer plans, it is however advisable to go for self check-in and remote check in systems, which will not only save up on space and costs for the airport, but will also be a passenger friendly method to use and will add to the level of comfort. For the outward immigrating passengers, the security checks are something that has little room for making a compromise. This is one functional area that has the tendency to effect the passenger flow and overall circulation efficiency of the airport because of the slow and lengthy security processes. Facilities that are mandatory for security checks include X-ray machines for baggage screening, metal detector systems, Inspection benches for manual inspection of baggage, Interview rooms and adequate queue and circulation space. At many airports in countries with conservative values, a separate indoor unit is also required for performing security checks on female passengers. In the post 9/11 era, many airports have taken additional security measures such as body scans at U.S. airports and retina scans at the UAE airports. Since the sensitive environment today does not allow for minimal security checks, it is advisable that the plan should be such that different security check units are placed close enough to reduce walking distance and distant enough to allow a smooth circulation (St. John 1991). A recommended plan would be one where the passengers go through metal detection process while the baggage goes through the X-ray screening. At airports where additional measures such as retina scans and body screening are required, ample counters or units must be available to avoid long queues and assist smooth flow. This will however require extra manpower. At airports where body screenings are required, it is advisable to provide separate screening units for ladies, supervised by female workforce, in order to add to the level of comfort. Failure to do so might result in a fall of level of service on account of lack of comfort level.

After the security clearance a passenger is required to go to the departure lounge. At airports where departure lounges are at long walking distances, adequate transport service must be provided. A good example is the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where small trains operate between the passenger terminal and the departure lounge. Likewise, the Dubai International Airport also has Locomotive facility. However, the availability of these services in peak hours is extremely low and many passengers are forced to walk long distances or wait for their turn which in turn results in delays and circulation interruptions in many cases.

Tourists do not wish to go to a country that does not provide them with mental relief and relaxation, has security threats, and has little to offer. Applying this theory in context of aviation services and development of airports, it is an important source of grabbing attention of tourist and attracting them. A good example in that regard is Dubai, whose air airport planned a very important role in generating revenues and attracting tourism (Lippert & O’Connor 2003). By providing a lavish airport with state of the art facilities and ultra modern leisure amenities within the terminal, a transit passenger was forced to consider a stay at the destination. On the other hand an airport that is cramped and congested with poor management and facilities would not be much impressive for a tourist. Moreover, since passengers spend a significant amount of money on air travel, given that it’s more expensive as compared to most other modes of transport, they look for having an adequate treatment in terms of comfort.

Similarly a business tourist would prefer an airport that provides ample telecommunication facilities such as facsimile, email, computer and WiFi services. Such tourists would also prefer comfortable airport lounges. It must however be considered that as a general rule, the area covered and the space of the airport is a key decisive factor in the degree to which services can be developed and up to what quality. In such cases, the degree to which airports can be extended then decides the range and quality of services provided.

Passengers that are inward immigrating have to queue up at the immigration counters after their arrivals. At many airports this is a long and tiring process for most passengers, however this process can be speeded up by electronic transfers of passenger systems and machine readable passports. Again, given the security threats, at many airports a manual immigration process is preferred as a security measure. In such cases, it is recommended that adequate number of immigration counters is available to ensure smooth flow and short queues. This is because the longer and the more passengers are held up at the immigration counter; the more congestion will take place later at the baggage claim area. Again, the extra counters will require extra equipment and manpower however; it will help supporting the overall level of service (Cohen & Coughlen 2003).

The baggage claim area for the inward immigrating passengers is a congestion generating unit at airports that wither do not have ample conveyor belts or have too many passengers held up for long at the immigration counters earlier and are then released all at once. Mishandling of baggage is a common complaint in such situations. Again the degree to which extra baggage claim and immigration units can be provided are dependent on the space available. Space standards therefore play a key role in deciding the level of service at a passenger terminal

A good example of comparing space standards at two busy passenger terminals would be comparing the King Abdul Aziz International Airport at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the Dubai International Airport at Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It must be noted that while the two airports are an almost equally busy airports most of the passengers travelling to Jeddah are Muslim pilgrims to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and therefore the traffic is regular and peaking all year round and increasing each year round regardless of the quality of service provided. This is because of the ritualistic nature of tourists that Saudi Arabia hosts. Dubai, on the other hand is a free port, an important transit terminal, a business and economic hub, and now also a tourist destination. Dubai, therefore hosts a different and diverse nature of passengers all year around (Lyth 2004). Dubai’s local airline, Emirates, being one of the most preferred airlines for international travel, also makes Dubai an important transit port for connecting flights. Perhaps it is for this reason that one can see a clear difference between the two passenger terminals. Although receiving almost as much passengers as Dubai, the passenger terminal at the King Abdul Aziz Airport is a poorly managed cramped building (Hussein 1997). In peak seasons of Ramadan and Hajj, it is even difficult for passengers to find a place to sit, let alone a lounge to rest and lie down and it is a common sight to see tired passengers standing in long queues waiting for their turn. The number of check in counters provided are dramatically low compared to the amount of traffic the airport hosts and it is common for most of the counters out of the already low numbers of counters to remain closed. Moreover, the operators of the functional counters are also very slow and most of them are only fluent in Arabic which makes the process even slower for non-Arab pilgrims and passengers. The arriving passengers at the King Abdul Aziz Airport have to go to a similar plight at the baggage claim area. With an extremely low

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