Airports Council International (ACI) World has issued guidance on best practices as airports adapt their airfield operations in response to the effects and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on a survey of the members of the ACI World Safety and Technical Standing Committee, around half of respondents had experienced a 90% or greater reduction in aircraft movements, and 64% had a 70% or greater reduction.
Even with enormous restrictions on travel, most airports surveyed had not restricted their hours of operation due to COVID-19 but three-quarters of respondents indicated that they have closed some of their airside infrastructure. Most have had to implement special arrangements to park large numbers of grounded aircraft.
The new advisory bulletin provides guidance on accommodating parked aircraft as well as the maintenance of airside infrastructure (runways, taxiways, aprons, stands, piers), the management of airside operations teams, and continuing essential cargo operations.
For example, the bulletin says aircraft operators may seek to add ballast in their stored aircraft to ensure stability under wind conditions, which may cause flexible pavement to suffer from overloading. In case of damage, airports should consider that taxiways requiring repairs or re-surfacing could be out of service for some time, with attendant operational constraints.
One airport operator who responded to the survey mentioned that cargo-only aircraft were supposed to use only one of their airports pre-COVID-19 and that they had to change their rules to allow cargo-only flights at the main airport. ACI World notes this should be considered at airports with similar arrangements.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented disruption of global air transport and has imposed operational challenges to airside infrastructure,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said.
“Despite the dramatic decline in passenger traffic, many airports remain open for cargo operations and the continuity of the air cargo business is essential for communities, the global economy at large and, for fighting the ongoing pandemic.
“The health and welfare of travellers, staff and the public, and limiting the spread of communicable diseases, are the priorities for the aviation industry and ‘business as usual’ no longer applies.
“It is imperative for airports to implement necessary measures to ensure best safety practices for airfield operations and this guidance will assist them in this work.”