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Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

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Case Studies on Transport Policy

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A new methodological framework for evaluating flexible options at airport

passenger terminals

Liliana Magalhãesa, , Vasco Reisb, Rosário Macárioc
Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, DECivil, CESUR, Sala 4.24, Avenida Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, DECivil, Sala 3.21, Avenida Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, DECivil, Sala 4.17, Avenida Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal


Keywords: Flexibility has been proposed as a suitable alternative or a complement to the traditional airport development
Airport flexibility approach based on Master Plans. Flexibility increases airports’ resilience to unexpected or unforeseen events
Flexible airport terminals such as economic recessions, regulatory restrictions or technological developments, to name a few. Although the
Evaluating flexibility benefits of flexibility have been discussed, the debate has thus far been conducted at the conceptual level.
Airport development
Furthermore, research which refers to ways of measuring the benefits of flexibility is almost inexistent.
Passenger terminals
This manuscript proposes a novel framework to support the incorporation of elements of flexibility in the
Air transport
airport development plan. The framework was primarily developed for cases of extension – i.e., when expansion
is not an option. It is organised in three phases: 1) definition of the decision inputs, scenarios and flexible
options, 2) ex-ante operational evaluation and, 3) ex-ante economic evaluation. The framework is meant to
guide airport managers assessing the plausibility of alternatives in keeping or improving the efficiency of air-
port’s processes.
An application of the framework is presented. The case study is the Terminal 2 of the Lisbon International
Airport. The objective of the use of this case study is twofold: 1) to exemplify the applicability of the framework,
and; 2) validate the framework together with the interviews that we conducted with airport practitioners. The
results evidence that flexibility can increase the efficiency by reducing the waiting times, which will increase the
passengers’ dwelling time. The costs are compensated by the increase in the non-aeronautical revenues.

1. Introduction airport industry is increasingly dominated by less regulation, un-

predictable demand, growing financial constraints, new social trends
In the aftermath of the 1944 Chicago Convention, a controlled en- and successive technological leaps (Burghouwt, 2007). Airports are
vironment emerged that was characterised by extensive regulation of becoming commercially-oriented firms that compete for a variety of
the aviation industry. In the course of the following decades, air customers with multiple services (Graham, 2010; Morrell, 2010). A new
transport benefited from a stable context, accompanied with a steady scenario has progressively emerged, characterised by inherent un-
growth in demand. predictability and increasing volatility. Taking into consideration that
The first airport development plans, commonly known as Master airports are infrastructures with long-life cycles spanning multiple
Plans, were formulated in this context. Typically, a Master Plan defines decades, airport managers face unparalleled challenges which require a
the development stages of an airport over a period of 30 years (IATA, new paradigm of airport planning. Additionally, the very conception of
2004). It defines the elements of an airport (e.g., terminal, runways) to an airport development plan often takes years, meaning that the initial
be built or implemented over time. In a context of stability and con- conditions may no longer apply at the end of the process.
tinuous growth, such exercise was relatively straightforward. ICAO Master Plans, as originally formulated, present known limitations
formulated, in 1967, the first guidelines (ICAO, 2002). Over the years, when it comes to preparing the airport to adapt to short or medium-
other recommendations and guidelines have been advanced by IATA term changes in demand and other conditions (Neufville and Odoni,
and FAA (FAA, 2007; IATA, 2004). 2003; Magalhães et al., 2013). They rely on medium to long-term
First starting in the U.S. in late 1970s, a liberalisation wave has been forecasts which often miss the mark.
sweeping the globe ever since (Rhoades, 2008). The new context of A different approach based on the principles of flexibility has been

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (L. Magalhães), (V. Reis), (R. Macário).
Received 2 March 2017; Received in revised form 29 December 2017; Accepted 6 March 2018
2213-624X/ © 2018 World Conference on Transport Research Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article as: Magalhães, L., Case Studies on Transport Policy (2018),
L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

Fig. 1. The interaction between external factors, airport operations and flexibility.

advocated (Burghouwt, 2007; Neufville, 2008; Butters, 2010; Airport for validation and evidence of application purposes. Lastly, the
Magalhães et al., 2017). In this approach, the limitations to accurately Section 4 presents the conclusions.
forecast the future are acknowledged. Multiple plausible future sce-
narios, and respective development options are taken into account that 2. Depicting flexibility
typically provide better results than the alternative “do nothing”. By
doing this, airports become change-resilient, that is, able to adapt to 2.1. Theoretical discussion1
variations in demand and other conditions (Magalhães et al., 2015).
Flexibility can be applied in three different moments of an airport The need for flexible design in airport terminals is a recent re-
development with different objectives (Magalhães et al., 2017), namely: cognition (Neufville and Belin, 2002; Edwards, 2005; Neufville, 2008)
and the research into flexible airport development is still very much in
• Extension, when flexible options are used to increase capacity whilst its early stages. As Magalhães et al. (2017) state, there is a scarcity of
keeping the same footprint; publications on the topic of airport flexibility. Only few authors have
• Expansion, when flexibility is used to generate a high capacity in- studied the concept of airport flexibility and, so far, no universal defi-
crease by building new facilities, and; nition has been accepted. Moreover, there is no consensus among au-
• Reduction, when flexible options are used to reduce capacity and thors. The review of the literature presented at Magalhães et al. (2017)
costs. revealed the existence of at least five different terms used to describe
the concept of airport flexibility.
Extension may be either used to postpone the need of an expansion, For the purpose of this study, flexibility is herein seen as a property
or during an expansion to accommodate the transition period (i.e., that increases the reliance upon the airport processes. A process is made
when civil construction works are under way). up of a set of tasks, which take place in a given time and space, con-
Literature on airport flexibility is growing, yet both a consensual suming resources (e.g., staff). Tasks can be shared by different processes
definition and a framework deployment are still lacking. The few pro- (e.g., baggage drop-off at check-in). In the face of variation of demand
posed frameworks are essentially conceptual (Magalhães et al., 2017, or other unexpected event, those tasks will underperform which in turn
2015) and do not provide guidance on how to assess the benefits that will negatively affect the performance of the processes. Once embedded
come with the introduction of flexibility. However, from an airport within the processes, flexibility enables the tasks to continue with good
manager’s perspective, understanding the costs and benefits involved in performance results, and therefore, contributing to the overall perfor-
flexibility is of utmost importance. The difficulty in isolating and cal- mance of the processes.
culating the impact of flexibility has been acknowledged (Chen and Fig. 1 represents our view of the interaction between flexibility,
Chung, 1996; Nilchiani, 2005), since the added value of flexibility only external factors and airport operations (processes). This figure re-
surfaces in situations of contextual change. presents the understanding of flexibility followed in this study, and can
The manuscript presents a new methodological framework for be divided into three main blocks:
evaluating flexible options in the context of airport capacity extension.
The framework helps airport managers to choose the most adequate • External factors are the drivers of change forcing airport managers to
flexible option. Aiming at validating the framework, we conducted a adjust processes to keep and improve airport efficiency levels;
series of interviews to empirically validate our methodological frame- • Airport operations are represented through processes (e.g., pas-
work. Moreover, aiming at evidencing the applicability, we also com- senger), where flexibility is applied. Each process is an organised
plement the validation of the methodological framework with an ap- chain of tasks (e.g., boarding). Each one consumes time and re-
plication to the case study of the passengers’ processes at Terminal 2 of sources. Tasks may be shared by different processes (e.g., check-in).
the Lisbon International Airport (Portugal). We developed a simulation The utilisation of processes is justified as they define the perfor-
model to test our methodological framework as real-world testing was mance and are a key component on the cost structure of the airport.
not possible. Flexibility influences the required resources to do a task;
This manuscript is organised into six sections. Following the in- • Airport productivity is measured through several indicators and is the
troduction, the Section 2 presents a brief review on airport flexibility ultimate purpose of airport manager. The two main parameters
and examples of flexible options used at airports worldwide. The Sec- considered to analyse flexibility are throughput and, financial and
tion 3 presents the research method used to build the methodological
framework. The Section 4 presents the methodological framework de-
veloped for the evaluation of flexible options. The Section 5 presents an 1
We published a literature review about the concept of airport flexibility in Magalhães
application to the case study of Terminal 2 at the Lisbon International et al. (2017). Herein, we present the key conclusions and facts.

L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

Table 1 long-term investments. Isolating the impact of flexibility in a scenario of

Real-world examples of flexible options and their planning levels. contextual change is no easy matter (Chen and Chung, 1996; Nilchiani,
2005). Nevertheless, it seems important to assess the benefits of flex-
Flexible option Planning level Real-world example
ibility from a productivity gain’s point of view.
Moveable walls Tactical Edmonton International
Mombasa International
Niagara Falls International 2.2. Flexibility in practice: some examples
Toronto Pearson International
Vancouver International Notwithstanding the scarce literature on flexible airport design ex-
Swing gates Operational Mombasa International
amples, it is somehow possible to find some references. Table 1 gathers
Niagara Falls International
Pease International
the flexible options presented in the literature. The table also presents
Toronto Pearson International the planning level of each option, based on the classification proposed
Modular terminals Strategical Amsterdam Schiphol by Magalhães et al. (2013).
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi The Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) from the
Dublin International
Transportation Research Board presents the largest collection of real-
Niagara Falls International
Southampton International world applications of flexible airport planning (Kincaid et al., 2012).
Non-load bearing walls Strategical Pease International Toronto Pearson International Airport is equipped with moveable walls
Land saving Strategical Amsterdam Schiphol which allow to change the capacity of the space for international and
Athens International domestic flights. Moreover, it also has swing gates which provide the
Dublin International
Mombasa International
possibility of using the same gate for international and domestic flights.
The airport also has an open space terminal. In this case, it is an area
currently being used for retail operations which, in fact, is a buffer to
economic performance. Flexibility influences the processes and, ul- increase the capacity for security control in the future.
timately, the performance and cost structure of the airport. Moveable walls are also used at Vancouver International Airport
(Neufville, 2008; Kincaid et al., 2012; Shuchi et al., 2012). The terminal
Flexibility can be applied at different levels: components, building is a simple large open hall divided by interior glass panels which are
design, space design and master plan (Butters, 2010). These levels can moveable. This flexible option can also be found at Edmonton Inter-
be connected with the typical planning levels: strategic, tactical and national Airport.
operational. The connection was established by Magalhães et al. (2013) Roulston (2010) presents the case of Niagara Falls International
where flexible options are divided among these three levels. Some le- Airport as a good example of flexible design. The terminal was designed
vels of flexibility are shared by two planning levels, depending on the in such a way that it is possible to reconfigure its parts. It has moveable
type of flexible options. walls and the building is prepared to expand in different phases without
In a flexible development situation, capacity is coordinated with compromising the current design or operations – modular terminals.
demand. This means that flexibility exploits airport’s latent capacity Southampton International Airport is presented by Shuchi et al.
and reduces its idleness. There will be a moment at which the infra- (2012) as a good example of a modular and cost-effective terminal. The
structure will no longer be able to cope with demand and that will be expansion of the terminal does not imply disruptions to current op-
when an expansion could be required. As such, flexible extension of an erations. The authors also mention Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport as a
airport allows to exhaust its capacity, postponing the need for expan- good example of the application of modular technique that offers a
sion. quick expansion.
For the purposes of this research, we adopted the definition of air- Dublin International Airport is also referred as a good example of
port flexibility originally proposed by Magalhães et al. (2017) as being flexible design (Butters, 2010). It was built based on a series of com-
the ability to change an infrastructure in time to respond to its capacity ponents that can be easily expanded independently or combined.
needs obtaining maximum value for money from the investment. This Flexibility is herein assured through land saving and modular expan-
definition is supported on five fundamental variables: implementation sion.
time, removability, value for money, productivity and costs. Flexible In the case of Mombasa International Airport, the initial develop-
airport design should be able to respond in time to capacity needs. ment plan consisted of two passengers’ terminals, one for domestic and
These needs are generated by several external factors or events (e.g., the other for international traffic. Nevertheless, there was the risk of an
economic constraints, technological developments) explained in detail international traffic shift which would leave one of the buildings un-
elsewhere (Magalhães et al., 2013). Since the external factors may derutilised (Kincaid et al., 2012). Therefore, the strategy was to build a
change or fade out, flexible option should be removable too. Flexibility single passenger terminal with mixed-use areas for domestic and in-
must also provide maximum value for money, i.e., return on the in- ternational flights, using moveable walls and swing gates.
vestment made to respond to capacity needs. Since flexibility influences Pease International Airport is also mentioned as an airport with
productivity, one must be able to analyse the benefits of productivity three flexible options. Firstly, the airport has domestic/international
both in operational performance and financial terms. Lastly, the cost swing gates. Secondly, it is using an unutilised aircraft parking as a car
factor is also included in the definition as flexibility should ensure that park. Thirdly, the terminal can be easily expanded or converted due to
the adaptations implemented provide maximum value for money and its non-load bearing walls (Kincaid et al., 2012), which are non-struc-
therefore, an assessment of its costs must be taken into account. tural walls that can be removed.
One of the major gaps identified by the authors in the literature Athens International Airport is a good example of land saving for
related with airport flexibility is the absence of a tool to quantify the future expansions. During an interview with Stratos Papadimitriou,2 it
benefits of flexibility (Chen and Chung, 1996; Nilchiani, 2005; Shuchi was explained that only half of the initial project was built. The initial
and Drogemuller, 2012). The debate has thus far been conducted at the project includes another terminal and runway symmetric to those al-
conceptual level. Flexibility has been identified as an asset which offers ready built. However, as the current demand does not justify such in-
several benefits. However, although the benefits of flexibility are dis- vestment, airport managers are using the empty land to collect energy
cussed, only one assessment tool has been developed. The notable ex- generated by solar panels. This is an example of how a flexible option
ception was the work of de Neufville (2008), which uses the concept of
Net Present Value to evaluate the benefits of flexibility for airports in 2
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Airport. Interview on January 13th, 2012.

L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

can be explored until needed.

Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport is pointed out by Shuchi
et al. (2012) as an example of a successful continuous growth in terms
of terminal and piers. As Maurits Schaafsma3 said during our interview,
Schiphol has been successfully expanded to respond to the continuous
increasing demand.

3. Research method

The research method supporting the development of the framework

was based on the principles of the grounded theory methodology (Birks
and Mills, 2012). In the first step of our investigation, a literature re-
view was carried out. The literature review evidenced the benefits of
incorporating elements of flexibility in the context of airport develop-
ment, notably in cases of airport expansion. Also, no instrument or
technique for deploying flexibility was found in the reviewed literature.
Supported by the literature review, we made a first attempt at designing
a new methodological framework for the evaluation of flexible options
for the extension case of airport development. The framework was in-
spired by the stepwise process proposed by Neufville and Scholtes
(2011). We adopted the vision proposed by de Neufville and Cardin
(2008), Neufville (2008), Neufville and Scholtes (2011) and Eckart
(2012) that flexibility can be evaluated through the comparison of
different scenarios. As such, the flexibility of a system is herein seen as a
relative measure as previously stated by other authors (Chen and
Chung, 1996; Koste and Malhotra, 1999). Moreover, this methodolo-
gical framework is in line with the basic decision-steps suggested in
management for decision making, namely (Cascetta et al., 2015;
Vreeker et al., 2002): i) specification of choice problem, ii) analysis of
information, iii) choice of appropriate evaluation method, and iv)
evaluation of alternatives. The methodological framework is presented
in Section 4.
Although the conclusion of an inductive process is supported by the
premises, they do not entail it. Additional validation efforts were re-
quired (Bryman, 2012). We conducted a validation exercise of the
maps, following a triangulation tactic as proposed by Yin (2003). This
tactic entails gathering evidences from different sources, which will
collectively support the validity of the findings. In our case, the sources
were: interviews and case study.
We undertook a series of semi-structured interviews with open-
ended questions with key respondents. Respondents were chosen based
on their knowledge and role in the airport operations and development.
Nine interviews were conducted, as follows:

• Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport (AMS) – The

Netherlands:: January 11th, 2012
o Maurits Schaafsma, Urban planner and Airport City concept spe-
• Athens International Airport (ATH) – Greece:: January 13th, 2012
o Stratos Papadimitriou, Chairman of the board of directors
• Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) – E.U.A:: May 6th, 2015
o Flavio Leo, Deputy director of aviation planning and strategy
• Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) – Germany:: January 9th,
o Sascha Schmitt, Senior project manager for business development
• Galeão International Airport (GIG) – Brazil:: June 15th, 2015
o Ana Torrontegui, Strategic development
• Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) – Brazil:: June 19th, 2015
o Rodrigo Jesus, Strategic planning
o Bruno Madureira, Strategic planning
• Santos Dumond Airport – Brazil:: June 15th, 2015
Fig. 2. Methodological framework for the implementation of flexibility.
o Aparecido de Oliveira, Strategic planning
• Viracopos International Airport (VCP) – Brazil:: June 18th, 2015

Urban planner and AirportCity concept specialist. Interview on January 11th, 2012.

L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

Fig. 3. Main components of Phase 2.

o Graziella Delicato, Airline relations manager

o Douglas Targa, Operational capacity coordinator
• Zurich International Airport (ZRH) – Switzerland:: January 12th,
o Andrea Jörger, Marketing & real estate

Lastly, we developed a case study analysis. The conduction of the

case study closely followed the process suggested by Stuart et al. (2002)
and Yin (2003). The case study is presented in Section 5.

4. New methodological framework for flexibility implementation

The final version of the framework for supporting the im-

plementation of flexibility in airport terminals in case of extension is
presented in Fig. 2. The framework is organised in five phases, which
are herein briefly reviewed.
Fig. 4. Matrix to support the analysis of the results obtained at the ex-ante operational
4.1. Phase 1 – Understanding the need for flexibility in the context of evaluation phase. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the
extension reader is referred to the web version of this article.)

The framework begins with the acknowledgement that flexibility is the level of service (IATA, 2004). As the level of service is focused on
required and the airport is in the context of extension, which means that the aeronautical processes, the decision variables should be based on
additional capacity is required but the terminal cannot be expanded the indicators that allow to determine the level of service (e.g., waiting
beyond its current footprint. time). Once the level of service is defined, it is necessary to assure that
the values for the decision variables are within the limits. The Key
4.2. Phase 2 – Setting the scene Performance Indicators provided by the ACI are also viable options. It is
possible to use both types of indicators as decision variables. Different
This phase has two main parts: the determination of the decision airport managers might have different perspectives upon the main
inputs and, the choice of scenarios and flexible options (Fig. 3). Con- variables that should be considered. Therefore, this framework offers
cerning the decision inputs, airport managers have to decide about the the opportunity to embed the analysis with specifications for each case.
scope of the work, the period of analysis and the decision variables. However, they will always have to be reflected on the processes. As for
The scope defines the unit of analysis (e.g., check-in area). As the number of variables, it varies significantly. Since the evaluation will
flexibility can be applied from strategic to operational levels, defining be based on a matrix (Fig. 4), as the number of variables increase so
the scope is essential to assure that the appropriate flexible options will does the complexity of the matrix.
be chosen. For example, if the unit of analysis is the arrival hall, The airport stakeholders experience and knowledge are crucial for
moveable walls is a possible flexible option. However, if the unit of the identification of the main sources of uncertainty and the scenarios.
analysis is the check-in area, other options might be considered such as User engagement techniques, such as the Delphi method, can be used
moveable check-in counters. here (Schuckmann et al., 2012). This technique provides a platform
The period of analysis will influence the scenarios which will be where experts are invited to think and exchange their knowledge,
used. For instance, a season analysis will consider scenarios that can through a multi-stage process based on questionnaires. This can also be
occur within a six-month period. But a 5-year analysis implies other complemented with research on the evolution of similar airports. Some
type of uncertainties, and therefore, different scenarios. Thus, it is ne- of the sources of uncertainty were already identified by authors
cessary to define with precision the time horizon (medium-term or (Neufville, 2008; Magalhães et al., 2013), being demand fluctuations,
short-term). This will generate different scenarios within the time scope economy cycles and technological developments the most noticeable. It
analysis. Long-term is not considered as the framework developed for is unlikely to consider all the uncertainties and scenarios. However, the
extension is used as a short- to medium-term solution. Long-term re- goal should be listing the more relevant ones. Since the framework was
quires the analysis of the need to pursue expansion. developed for the extension airport development case, the scenarios
Decision variables are the indicators considered as the most im- should be of short- to medium-term. We are looking for scenarios, for
portant to take into account in the evaluation. As stated above, our instance, related with seasonal or daily fluctuations on demand.
understanding is that flexibility will influence the terminal processes in Each scenario should have an associated probability of occurrence.
terms of throughput and, financial and economic results. Hence, deci- This is not mandatory for a successful application of the framework.
sion variables are related with the processes for passengers. The IATA However, it is useful. It might be preferable to choose a flexible option
recommendation is that airport’s capacity should be evaluated based on

L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

that provides the best results for a scenario with a higher probability, approach with a cost-effectiveness analysis, as this seems the preferred
instead of one flexible option with average results for most scenarios. type of evaluation for airport managers to decide upon flexible options.
Several techniques can be used to determine the probability of occur- This phase is another decision moment. Once the previous phase is
rence, such as the Delphi method or numerical analysis. finished, it is time to look at the results and decline all the flexible
As explained above, flexible options can be diverse. Different sce- options that, for each scenario, produce worse results that the base case
narios might require different flexible options, and therefore, it is im- (current situation). If there are any positive differences, it is logical to
portant to evaluate (in the next phase) the results obtained for each proceed.
alternative flexible option for each scenario. For each scenario, various
flexible options can be tested. A flexible option is herein defined as a 4.5. Phase 5 – Ex-ante economic evaluation
solution that allows airport managers to alter the capacity of an infra-
structure in time to respond to a certain need, and stop with its use Once airport managers decide to proceed with flexible options, it is
when no longer necessary to, at least, keep performance stable towards time to observe which flexible option provides a higher value for
change. money, using a cost-effectiveness analysis. This framework does not say
which option should be chosen. It evaluates the results obtained for
4.3. Phase 3 – Ex-ante operational evaluation each flexible option for each scenario, pointing out the flexible option
that provides the best results for each scenario. This evaluation is based
At this phase, flexible options will be evaluated for each scenario in on the probability of occurrence, if available. It is also based on the
order to understand if they provide better results than the “do nothing” value for money by taking into account the costs of the flexible options,
option. This phase requires information from the previous one. The as well as their benefits. Value for money measures the cost a good,
values of the decisions variables for the base case which correspond to feature or service as well as its benefits. So, at this point, for each
the current situation, as well as for each alternative flexible option for flexible option of each scenario it is necessary to determine the costs for
each scenario, are estimated. Regarding the evaluation method, it the period of analysis (e.g., set up, operation and maintenance). If the
should reflect as outcomes the results for the decisions variables for the period of analysis is longer, it is necessary to update the costs to the
base case in each scenario, as well as the results of each alternative reference year. To determine the value for money of each flexible op-
flexible option in each scenario. The choice of the method also depends tion, it is necessary to weigh the costs against the results obtained for
on the period of analysis and the scope. Short-term periods of analysis the decision variables and against other possible benefits. Once this is
have an operational scope and typically rely on simulation modelling done, one can advise the airport manager upon which flexible option
(Neufville and Odoni, 2003). Evaluation methods can be various. They should be chosen.
vary from static indicators to complex simulation models. The aspects
defined in the previous phase will influence the type of analysis. 5. Case study: Terminal 2 at the International Airport of Lisbon
Moreover, the possibility of associating a probability of occurrence or
not has to be taken into consideration. Some evaluation methods are In this manuscript, we apply our methodological framework to the
not able to incorporate probabilities. Once the method is chosen, it is case study of Terminal 2 of the Lisbon International Airport. The ob-
time to apply it to the base case for different scenarios. The results for jective is to exemplify the applicability of our methodological frame-
the decisions variables for the base case in each scenario are then cal- work to a case study. Moreover, we also seek the validation of our
culated. These results are the basis of this ex-ante operational evalua- methodological framework through the use of a case study (Yin, 2014).
tion and will feed the following steps. Then, we need to calculate the We develop a case study based on simulation modelling since it was not
values of the variables for the flexible option of each scenario using the possible to test our methodological framework under real-world con-
same evaluation method of the previous step. Once this is done, it is ditions. The simulation model is a representation of the departure
time to calculate the differences of each variable for each alternative processes for passengers at Terminal 2. Simulation model has been
flexible option relative to the base case for each scenario, and fill a described as the appropriate tool to evaluate features at operational
matrix similar to the one presented in Fig. 4. This matrix presents the level, such as the processes (Neufville and Odoni, 2003).
differences for each flexible option and the base case for each scenario.
If the difference is positive, it means that the flexible option produces
5.1. Context
better results when compared with the base case and it is marked in
green. When the difference is negative, the flexible option does not
Lisbon Airport is the most important Portuguese airport. The
produce better results than the base case and it is marked in red. It is
number of passengers reached 20 million in 2015 and the airport serves
important to observe that the same option can be used to respond to
47 airlines companies with 110 different destinations. It is located
different scenarios. This phase serves the purpose of checking if flex-
within the city, and therefore, it cannot be expanded beyond its current
ibility is an option to extend the capacity and delay expansion. Thus, at
limits. Nevertheless, the traffic has been growing rapidly, particularly
the end of this phase if the flexible options do not provide better results
for low-cost airlines. The airport is managed by ANA – Aeroportos de
than “do nothing” (base case), the analysis should stop. This means that
Portugal, S.A.
flexibility is not the answer to the problem. If it is not the case, we
Terminal 2 serves the low-cost companies and it only has de-
should proceed to the next phase.
partures. The terminal has recently been the object of a series of in-
terventions to increase the capacity for some aeronautical activities
4.4. Phase 4 – Understanding if flexible options are useful
(security and boarding). Nonetheless, there are other activities that also
present capacity issues such as the check-in which is the scope of the
According to Vreeker et al. (2002) four types of evaluation styles
application of our methodological framework. By the time we con-
can be distinguished, namely: monetary decision approach, based on
ducted this case study,4 there were four low-cost airlines operating at
cost and benefits (or effectiveness) principles; utility theory approach,
Terminal 2, namely: EasyJet, Ryanair, Transavia and WizzAir.
based on a multicriteria analysis which is used to rank the decision-
There are twenty-two check-in counters but only twenty-one are
makers’ preferences; learning approach, which is based on a sequential
available for the airlines. One counter is specifically used for oversized
articulation of the decision-makers’ views, and; collective decision ap-
luggage. The airlines operate their check-in and luggage drop-off
proach, which is based on a multi-person negotiation or voting proce-
dures. A series of interviews with airport experts (list presented in
annex) evidenced the advantage of pursuing a monetary decision Operation day is October 26th, 2016.

L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

activities at specific counters, that is, each airline always operates the
same counters. The airlines do not share counters. Moreover, they re-
quire a different number of check-in counters. EasyJet operates their
check-in and luggage drop-off activities with six counters, Ryanair with
4 counters and both Transavia and Wizzair with two counters.
There is a need to accommodate demand without compromising the
quality of service at the check-in by avoiding expansion. Thus, it is a
good case study for the extension scope, and therefore, our methodo-
logical framework can be applied.

5.2. Application of the methodological framework

The following is a brief presentation of the application of the

methodological framework to Terminal 2. The objective, as described Fig. 6. Waiting time at check-in counters using flexible option (simulation software).
above, is twofold: i) to demonstrate how it can be applied in practice,
and; ii) to serve as a validation exercise of our methodological frame-
new check-in counters when the waiting time exceeds 10 min. The
work. This application had the collaboration of two members of ANA –
contractual agreement between ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal,
Aeroportos de Portugal, namely: the head of Aviation Marketing and a
S.A. and the Portuguese Government obliges airports to comply
Board Advisor. The presentation follows the organisation of the fra-
with a waiting time of 10 min or less at the check-in counters for
90% of the passengers. When the waiting time takes longer, the
airport manager pays a fine and therefore, this flexible option is
• Phase 1 – Understanding the need for flexibility in the context of helpful.
o Step 1.1: Decision – As there is no possibility of further expanding • Phase 3 – Ex-ante operational evaluation
o Step 3.1: Assessment tool – We decided to pursue modelling simu-
Terminal 2, extension seems a proper solution to maintain effi-
lation to assess the waiting times at the check-in area, which is
ciency before a context of growing demand;
explained in detail elsewhere (Magalhães et al., 2016). We used
• Phase 2 – Setting the scene
AnyLogic® software to develop a hybrid simulation model. The
o Step 2.1: Scope – The focus of this research was on the check-in
model is organised in three layers: the physical, refers to the ac-
area, which presents capacity issues as explained above;
tual infrastructure’s footprint (terminal); the logical, refers to the
o Step 2.2: Period of analysis – Standard operation day (October
actions of the passengers, and; the resources, which refer to the
26th, 2016) which had 41 flights of the four low-cost companies.
existent equipment, staff and others. We use discrete-events ap-
The standard time departure (STD) ranged from 5.15 am
proach to model the processes and agent-based to model passen-
to 9.20 pm;
gers and resources’ behaviour, which are limited by the infra-
o Step 2.3: Decision variables – Upon discussions with the airport
structure while running through the process. The simulation
manager and aiming at keeping the exercise simple, we decided to
model was calibrated based on observations as well as the in-
use one representative decision variable related with the level of
formation provided by the airport manager. Our inputs are related
service – waiting time. This variable is used to assess the level of
with processes and staff performance (e.g., counters’ processing
service which was the ultimate goal of the airport managers;
per unit of time, passengers’ arrival flows), as well as passengers’
o Step 2.4: Sources of uncertainty and scenarios – The current situa-
information (e.g., percentage of business versus touristic, per-
tion, in terms of demand – that is, the daily operation of the four
centage of international versus domestic). The outputs of the
low-cost companies – was used as the scenario of analysis. There
model will be focused on processes’ performance for the flexible
are two reasons underlying this choice. Firstly, at the current time,
option. In this case, the output used is the waiting time. This
the terminal already exhibits congestion. Secondly, for validation
output will then be used to assess the flexible option;
purposes, since we know this is a plausible scenario and we know
o Step 3.2: Calculate the value of the decision variables for the base case
the actual impact on the operations.
– The maximum waiting time currently reaches 50 min (Fig. 5).
o Step 2.5: Probability of occurrence – The probability of occurrence
However, 75% of the passengers wait 10 min or less. It is im-
is 100% since we are using the current situation as a scenario;
portant to notice that 50% of the passengers wait between 0 and
o Step 2.6: Flexible options – Based on the low airport managers’
2 min at the check-in counters. This is possible because almost
willingness to invest, one flexible option was chosen to increase
50% of the passengers use online check-in with no luggage to
the capacity at the check-in area – that is, the dynamic opening of
o Step 3.3: Calculate the value of the decision variables for the flexible
option – The flexible option in test is the opening of new check-in
counters for each one of the four airline companies, when waiting
time exceeds 10 min. For all four airlines, this flexible option re-
presents a major increase in their performance as the maximum
waiting time is now 25 min (Fig. 6). Moreover, 80% of the pas-
sengers wait 10 min or less. It is important to notice that the value
of the first column increased. Each column is an interval and
therefore, for the first interval the percentage of passengers
waiting less than 3 min has increased.
• Phase 4 – Understanding if flexible options are useful
o Step 4.1: Decision – The flexible option provides better results than
the base case, hence we should proceed;
• Phase 5 – Ex-ante economic evaluation
Fig. 5. Waiting time at check-in counters for the base case (simulation software). o Step 5.1: Value for money assessment of flexible options – in terms

L. Magalhães et al. Case Studies on Transport Policy xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx

of benefits, the time saving at the check-in counter represents 5 corresponds to the ex-ante economic evaluation of the flexible options
more time available to spend on non-aeronautical activities at the based on a cost-effectiveness analysis.
terminal, particularly on shopping. More shopping at the terminal We applied the framework to a case study – Terminal 2 of Lisbon
means more revenues for the airport manager. Based on the sea- Airport. The purpose of this application was twofold: 1) exemplifying
sonal questionnaires at the terminal conducted by the airport the applicability of our methodological framework to a case study, and;
manager, leisure passengers tend to arrive early at the airport. 2) validating our methodological framework through the use of a case
Moreover, the percentage of leisure passengers using Terminal 2 is study (besides the interviews that we conducted) as the application to a
high. Therefore, this time saving at the check-in should not be real-world environment was not possible.
reflected in a later arrival at the terminal. Additionally, since Flexible options proved to increase the performance of the decision
passengers spend less time on queues, they become less stressed variable that we chose (waiting time). As we only considered one sce-
about their flight departure time and consequently, more willing nario and one decision variable (waiting time), no complex matrix was
to visit shops and restaurants. The results reveal that with the necessary. Although we were not able to accurately determine the costs
flexible option there was an increase of 7% of the passengers and benefits, some important considerations are presented concerning
visiting shops and restaurants. In terms of costs, this flexible op- the value for money assessment.
tion does not represent a direct cost for the airport manager as the This framework provides an organised approach for the evaluation
check-in counters are already installed. One could argue that this of flexibility and by doing so, it contributes to increase the knowledge
flexible option does not allow the counters to be used by other of airport flexibility and in turn contributes to fill a gap of knowledge in
hypothetical interested airlines, which would generate an oppor- the current literature on this topic. Moreover, the general nature of
tunity cost. However, at this moment the counters are already some of the steps allows the application of this framework in other
there and not being used, so this cost does not currently exist. contexts. In terms of future developments, it would be interesting to test
Lastly, this flexible option does represent a cost for low-cost air- if this methodological framework can be applied to the other two mo-
lines. Therefore, the airport manager might need to encourage the ments of airport development, namely: reduction and expansion. Some
airlines with some incentives (e.g., monetary). Whether this is the adjustments might be required, but the general nature of the framework
case, this flexible option might represent a lower revenue for the suggests that its application to the other moments is possible.
airport manager. Nevertheless, it is an option worth considering in
order to delay the need for expansion (e.g., building new airport) Acknowledgements
and consequently, a high investment.
o Step 5.2: Advise the airport manager – Based on the results ob- This research was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for
tained, the flexible option should be implemented. Science and Technology (FCT) under Grants [SFRH/BD/52361/2013
and SFRH/BPD/75122/2010]. The information related with the case
6. Conclusions study was kindly provided by ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, S.A. We
would also like to acknowledge Duarte Amorim da Cunha for the sup-
The traditional airport development approach based on master port with the simulation software.
plans reveals relevant shortcoming in current times, characterised by
increasing uncertainty. Alternative approaches, such as flexible devel- References
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