6 Crucial Airport Operations KPIs — Every Airport Must Monitor!

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.

Tracking the right set of key performance indicators (KPIs) is vital for high-quality airport operations. However, sometimes it isn’t easy to choose the right KPIs. As a matter of fact, some airports monitor the wrong or even too many KPIs. Therefore, we want to provide a little guidance and collected the six crucial airport operations KPIs every airport should track.

So here’s what you’ll find on this blog post!
KPIs — A Quick Definition
Airport Operations KPIs — Some Background and Tips
How we Defined “Crucial Airport Operations KPIs?”
6 Crucial Airport Operations KPIs

KPIs — A Quick Definition

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.

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.

Airport Operations KPIs — Some Background and Tips

Airport Operations KPIs are a vast and complex field. However, when used correctly, airport operations KPIs help to improve an airport’s operational quality massively. Here are some quick tips you may consider when working with airport operations KPIs.

Real-time business requires a clear focus.
Airport operations —more than any other activity— is real-time driven. Every involved stakeholder has to make decisions quickly to avoid a major impact on an airport’s flight program. As a result, everyone needs the right set of information as decision support. However, too much information can be distracting, and the wrong information certainly leads to wrong decisions. Therefore, the right set of KPIs helps to make the best decisions in real-time.

Real-time business requires real-time KPIs.
Since airport operations are a real-time business, it is vital to measure and monitor airport operations KPIs. 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.

Corporate Goals and specific KPIs
When setting up airport operations, KPI’s corporate goals are decisive. Therefore, general airport operations KPIs and department-specific operations KPIs have to be derived from corporate goals. Otherwise, there’s always the risk of contracting KPIs.

How we Defined “Crucial Airport Operations KPIs?”

The list of airport operations KPIs we introduce with this blog post is based on surveys and discussions with airports worldwide. We asked dozens of airport operations managers about the KPIs they consider as crucial. On top of that, we wanted to if they already track the KPIs and the related benefits. So we analyzed the results and selected six KPIs that are used most commonly and/or provide the most benefits.

Airport KPIs — Best Airports

6 Crucial Airport Operations KPIs

Number of Flights

What is this KPI About?
The number of flights probably is one of the most basic yet essential KPIs. 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.

How’s the KPI Calculated?
Calculating the KPI means counting the number of flights for a certain period (hour, day, peak, etc.)

How to get the most of this airport operations KPI?
Of course, the KPI isn’t about the number of flights on the day only. So to get the most out of this airport operations KPI it should incorporate several additional 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.

Delay Reasons & Minutes

What is this KPI About?
Actually, Delay Reasons and Delay Minutes represent two different airport operations KPIs. However, we thought it makes sense to combine it in this blog post. Both KPIs provide information about how smoothly the operations run. While Delay Minutes provides a high-level overview, delay reasons provide more detailed insights. Many airports we asked solely to 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.

How’s the KPI Calculated?
Delay is calculated as the sum of all delay minutes of departed flights in a certain period (hour, day, peak, etc.). Delay reasons cluster the number of delay minutes according to different reasons. 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.

How to get the most of this airport operations KPI?
Some 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 of passengers. The result is a weighted KPI that helps to assess the impact of delays in a better way.

Number of Passengers

What is this KPI About?
As the number of flights, the number of passengers is a simple and basic but utmost essential airport operations KPI. The KPI provides required information about arriving/departing passengers and helps to assess a situation perfectly.

How’s the KPI Calculated
Calculating the KPI means counting the number of passengers for a certain period (hour, day, peak, etc.)

How to get the most of this airport operations KPI?
Again, airports should not solely show the number of passengers for a day but provide more details for example:

  • 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 passengers according to different attributes, such as the number of arriving passengers, number of departing passengers, or connecting passengers.

File:Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.JPG
Guangzhou Airport — World’s Busiest Airport in terms of Passengers in 2020

Turnaround Sufficiency

What is this KPI About?
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 and provides essential insights regarding an airport’s operations.

How’s the 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, cleaning, fueling, and catering. 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.


Lost Baggage

What is this KPI About?
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.

How’s the KPI Calculated?
There are several ways how to calculate the number of lost baggage. Moreover, the approaches usually depend on data availability. However, from a theoretical point of view, the number of lost baggage is calculated as the number of passengers arriving at an airport without checked-in luggage.


What is this KPI About?
We close our list of the most important airport operations KPIs: Punctuality. Punctuality certainly is the king of aviation KPIs. In that context, we have to distinguish two types of punctuality: Departure Punctuality and Arrival Punctuality.

How’s the KPI Calculated?
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. Arrival Punctuality takes the same approach for flights arriving at an airport.

How to get the most of this airport operations KPI?
Many airports (and airlines) have started to calculate the plain departure punctuality of flights and incorporate further aspects. For example, 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 Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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