5 Key Airport Infrastructure Challenges

The future looks bright for the air travel industry. With passenger travel expected to grow substantially in the next two decades, airport infrastructure around the world has to keep up with the demand.

Over the next 20 years, the aviation industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5%. This growth, as predicted in the International Air Transport Association’s 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast, corresponds to a rise in total passengers to 8.2 billion by 2037 and support for more than 100 million jobs around the world.

In Australia, the anticipated growth in air passengers is substantial. The National Infrastructure Perspective report states — 

  • Sydney airport: By 2039, 65.6 million passengers are expected to pass through the airport, up from 43.3 million passengers in 2017 
  • Melbourne airport: By 2038, annual passenger numbers are forecast to almost double to more than 67 million 
  • Brisbane airport: By 2034, they be catering for 48.3 million passengers, more than double last year’s passenger total of 22.9 million
  • Perth airport: By 2045, 35 million passengers will travel through the airport, up from 14.3 million passengers in 2017

These numbers would tell us that investing in airport infrastructure is no longer optional.

But with these great opportunities come challenges within the aviation industry that need to be addressed in order to improve passenger experience and develop efficient airports of the future.

Airport Infrastructure Challenges

1. Inflation / Demand

Demand for airport infrastructure will double by the year 2031. Globally, it is not built fast enough to meet the growing demand.

Although Australia has created a successful model for implementing the necessary changes to keep up with growing demands by privatising the country’s major airports, which is important to bring in the appropriate level of investment, there are still limitations on what some airports can do. Australia especially must still find the regulatory framework that will balance investor profit margin and the public interest.

The cost-efficiency of improvements must also be considered. Linking an improved airport to opportunities for the population is another balance to be made. 

Seoul’s Incheon Airport serves as a great example, adding terminal and runway capacity without raising the cost of a flight. Changi Airport is another airport that the investors and the government can emulate.

2. Investors

Public-Private Partnership Challenges. Despite some great privatisation efforts in Australia, there are some challenges that public-private partnerships always face. For instance, private runways have an incentive to overload their schedules to optimise departures, which can cause schedule breaks.

National regulation and the lack of regional coordination. These are creating challenges for international investors. PwC notes that privatisation deals must be done with prudence, always taking into consideration the airport’s long-term growth strategy as governance, economic regulation, and ownership structures are looked into.

3. Ensuring Business as Usual

Making significant upgrades to airport infrastructure can affect day-to-day business. Oftentimes, a massive undertaking can mean closing a section of the airport for hours. 

While completely avoiding this is next to impossible, there are ways that can be implemented to maximise the limited window of opportunity and complete the project before reopening to traffic. 

Case in point: the use of Belitic Calcium Sulfoaluminate (BCSA) cement versus traditional cement. 

While traditional cement is easily available, highly durable, and easy to apply, considerable curing period the concrete is very time-consuming. 

BCSA cement, on the other hand, is an advanced pure hydraulic cement that’s been used in the expedited rehabilitation of highways and airfield pavements. It can gain faster structural strength in as little as 1 hour, compared to traditional concrete, which can take several days to create. Because of its innovative rapid-setting quality, the job gets completed faster.

4. Airport-City Transportation

Airport infrastructure does not begin when the plane takes off; it begins as soon as they leave home and make their way to the airport terminal doors. 

The key to developing the airport of the future is improving and optimising transportation to and from the airport. For example, improving rail capacity at an airport helps with mass transportation, shortening passenger time from hours to minutes and reducing congestion on the road.

5. Renovating Existing Infrastructure

Not everything in an airport needs to be completely rebuilt to create the transportation hub of the future. In many cases, airports can take advantage of existing infrastructure to provide the skeleton for future improvements. It also limits the carbon and technical footprint of renovations and has less of an impact on day-to-day operations during project operations.


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