APOC: Is virtual as good as physical?

To70 recently attended an Airport Operations Centre (APOC) workshop organized by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe and the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU). The workshop delivered interesting insights into the coordinating role of APOC and the challenges involved. The discussions also made it clear Europe’s airports have varying opinions about what an APOC should look like.

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Recap of APOC workshop insights

Here’s a brief recap of important conclusions from the workshop:

  • Integrating landside processes, rather than only airside, into the functionality of an APOC is critical to achieving maximum efficiency with a holistic view of airport operations.
  • The A-CDM process and its related data exchanges are project cornerstones: APOC procedures should ideally build on A-CDM data exchange and stakeholder dialogue processes already in place.
  • The APOC concept aims to evolve airport operations from reactive to proactive, thereby helping to anticipate operational situations and improve passenger experience.
  • An APOC’s coordinating role should not be underestimated. The challenge is to create a single contact point from which to communicate collaborative, mutual decisions from stakeholders who have differing priorities, while also disseminating outside information effectively back to them.
  • Change management is crucial. An APOC project must have a clear goal and obvious buy-ins for all stakeholders.


Different visions of APOC

One thing that became clear during the workshop, is how differently individual airports interpret the APOC concept. Obviously, differing levels of engagement from partners will mean no two airports’ APOCs are exactly alike, but there were also fundamental differences in how airports envision this ‘centre’ of airport operations.

Many are enthusiastic about the idea of a central decision-making centre with representatives from across operations. Others, however, see a decentralised APOC (a contradiction in terms!) with ‘decision cells’ around the airport. Still others are considering virtual stakeholder meetings to discuss topics via videoconference.

Certainly, specific local variables like airport size and traffic volumes, not to mention the politics of stakeholder cooperation, will be practical determinants for the APOC concept at each airport. However, we wonder whether virtual options can be as effective as a physical operations centre.

Our argument for a physical APOC

At To70, we think a maximum effort toward a centralised APOC with physical stakeholder representation is the better option. Also, designs for collaborative procedures, physical spaces and data visualisation, need to allow for the human factor (keeping humans ‘in the loop’) just as in Air Traffic Control and cockpit operations.

Individual circumstances may call for some virtual aspects, but the emphasis should be on a central, physical APOC. From our aviation consulting experience, we believe this is the quickest way to reach unanimous decisions, anticipate and improve reaction times, and avoid confused back-and-forth communications. During a crisis, communication problems arise that even the best virtual setup will only make worse.

Now you know our opinion, we want to know yours! What would an ideal APOC look like to you? And what challenges do you see for its realisation?

For further information about ACI and SJU projects:

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com.

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