Airport operations management is an ultra-complex task, especially in large hubs with thousands of daily flights and challenging passenger connections. Therefore, monitoring the right set of KPIs is essential for high-quality airport operations. With this blog post, we introduce six of the most important airport operations KPIs every airport should track.

airport kris

Let’s quickly provide some context and theoretical background before diving into the six most important airport operations KPIs. In case you are familiar with KPIs, you can skip the following two chapters or click here.

What are KPIs?

So let’s start with the definition of KPIs: KPI is an abbreviation of Key Performance Indicator. A Key Performance Indicator reflects a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company achieves business objectives. Setting up KPIs usually follows a top-down approach from strategic goals down to specific goals of business areas. 

KPIs are a unique and powerful tool that helps companies assess if they are on track regarding set goals — or not. Therefore, KPIs provide valuable insights that help to steer and manage.

How to measure airport operations KPIs

Since airport operations is a real-time business, it is vital to measure and monitor airport operations KPIs in real-time. That allows operational staff to identify current weaknesses and initiate countermeasures actively. On top of that, daily, weekly, and monthly KPI reports help assess the bigger picture and long-term developments.

6 most important airport operations KPIs

Now that we set the theoretical background, it’s time to dive into airport operations KPIs. We compiled a set of six KPIs we consider most important when running efficient and smooth airport operations.

#6 — Number of Flights

We start with one of the most basic yet most important KPIs: The number of flights. Of course, the KPI isn’t about the number of flights on the day only. On the contrary, the KPI must incorporate several different information, such as:

  • Number of flights planned for a day
  • Number of flights already operated at that very moment
  • Number of flights scheduled for the next hour or peak

Moreover, it usually makes sense to cluster the number of flights according to different attributes, such as:

  • Domestic flights
  • Schengen/Non-Schengen flights (at least in Europe)
  • Intercontinental flights
  • etc.

You may ask why this KPI is important. Actually, there is no better KPI that provides a neutral overview of the operations. The KPI reflects the airport operations’ core in a perfect and minimalistic way.

#5 – Delay Reasons & Minutes

Delay minutes clustered according to delay reasons provide a more specific analysis of operational issues. But let’s do that step-by-step. Many airports solely monitor the overall delay minutes — literally as a single bold number. As the number of flights, the figure helps assess the current operations and contributes to perfect situational awareness.

However, clustered according to delay reasons, the KPI provides even more value. Usually, airports use the official IATA delay reasons and delay codes, such as technical, handling, rotational, or weather. By doing so, airports can clearly identify current problems and bottlenecks.

Interesting alternative: Some of the airports move away from showing the plain delay minutes and put them concerning the number of flights or passengers. As a result, those airports monitor the average delay minutes per flight or average delay minutes a passenger. 

#4 — Number of Passengers

Similar to the number of flights, the number of passengers is a simple and basic but utmost essential airport operations KPI. Again, airports should not solely show the number of passengers for a day but provide more details:

  • Planned passenger for the entire day
  • Already operated passengers
  • Number of passengers for the upcoming hour/peak

On top of that, it is vital to cluster the number of passenger according to different attributes, such as:

  • Number of arrival passengers
  • Number of departing passengers
  • Number of connecting passengers
  • Etc.

The KPI is significant when it comes to providing a holistic view of an airport’s operations.

#3 — Turnaround Sufficiency

Since we set the basics with the number of passengers or flights, it gets time for some more sophisticated KPIs. The turnaround process reflects the most crucial process of an airport. Moreover, an efficient turnaround process directly defines an airport’s operations quality.

Although an airport operator is only one of many turnaround process stakeholders, passengers usually link the airline’s quality and the airport. Accordingly, the KPI reflects an essential metric for an airport’s operations quality.

How is this KPI calculated?

Every flight pair of an inbound and outbound flight has a planned ground or turnaround time. This is when passengers deboard, new passenger board and cleaning, fueling, and catering takes place. Therefore, every flight pair has a planned turnaround time. 

The Turnaround Sufficiency calculates the number of flights that managed the turnaround within the schedule slot concerning the total number of flights.

As a result, the KPI perfectly reflects the turnaround performance and provides essential insights regarding an airport’s operations.

#2 — Lost Baggage

Probably one of the most annoying situations: You arrive at an airport, deboard the aircraft, head over to baggage claim, and after waiting for hours, you get told that your baggage got lost.

Lost baggage reflects KPIs that passengers strongly link with an airport. Accordingly, the KPI is an important quality indicator. Therefore, airports should monitor the number of lost baggage closely and in real-time.

#1 — Departure Punctuality

We close our list of the most important airport operations KPIs with the Departure Punctuality KPI. Departure Punctuality certainly is the king of aviation KPIs.

Departure Punctuality calculates the percentage of flights that depart on time at the airport concerning all operated flights. Usually, a flight counts as on-time if the departure delay is below 15 minutes.

Many airports (and airlines) have started to calculate the plain departure punctuality of flights and incorporate further aspects. With the so-called “punctuality-enrichment concept.” airports, step-by-step, add more aspects to the punctuality indicator: The number of passengers, lost baggage, waiting times, etc. Ultimately, a so-called passenger satisfaction index could replace departure punctuality — or at least serve as an additional quality indicator.

Airport Operations KPIs — What Do You Think?

Always happy to get your feedback. Let me what airport operations KPIs you track? Which KPIs you consider essential and which not! Hit me up on Twitter or get in touch on LinkedIn!


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Benjamin is an information-enthusiast, a content-maniac, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions with the aim to change the way companies use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned companies all over the globe.