The Airport Explosion - Connecting the World

The airport explosion would have to be in lock step with prudent adherence to law and regulation by the authorities

by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne
Writing from Montreal

Air transport is growing in exponential terms and affects all States around the world. Air travel will double in 2030 as against today's figure. It is forecast that, between 2009 and 2028 there will be a demand for 24,951 passenger and freighter aircraft worth USD 3.1 trillion, and that, by 2028 there will be 32,000 aircraft in service compared with 15,750 in 2009. In January 2015, ongoing projects for airport construction amounted to the value of US $543 billion globally. These facts and figures incontrovertibly spell out the future of air transport and the inevitable fact that liberalization of air transport is a compelling need to meet demand.

Daxing International Airport in China
From 2015 to date, the airport explosion has taken off in exponential terms. Megaports abound round the world: China is on its way with Daxing International Airport which is a hub airport that is expected to accommodate 100 million passengers a year. The gigantic growth of air travel envisioned for China is amply demonstrated by the fact that it was only just over 10 years ago that China added Terminal Three to the current Beijing International Airport. China continues to need new airports for its rapidly expanding air transport market which has prompted the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the global association of airlines – to say that in the decade of the 2020s China will surpass the largest aviation market – the United States.

The new airport in Dubai, where construction has already started, is expected to have 130 million passengers pass through its premises annually. In the region, both Qatar and Abu Dhabi are following suit. At a cost of $ 11 billion, Istanbul’s new airport, which started its operations on 6 April this year, is a behemoth that can accommodate 3000 flights a day which carry 90 million passengers a year. The Economist records that by 2028 the airport would have six runways with a capacity of 200 million passengers a year.

The airport explosion is caused by a phenomenon called “connectivity” which is the most compelling need in aviation and is embodied in the Chicago Convention of 1944 as inter alia “meeting the needs of the people of the world for efficient and economical air transport”. To cite just one example, when Emirates commenced its operations to Australia in 1997, the airline was viewed with trepidation and concern by QANTAS, as a threat to its market share. This view was shared by the Australian authorities. However, attitudes quickly changed, and this concern was obviated when the Australians realized the added economic benefit quickly enjoyed by the places Emirates flew to. Currently, Emirates operates 84 flights a week to Australian cities and hopes to expand this number. QANTAS and Emirates are now partners through a partnership launched in 2013 and which now offers Qantas and Emirates customers more seamless travel between Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

One way in which air carriers ensure connectivity is through bilateral, regional and multilateral open skies agreements. An open skies agreement is a bilateral or multilateral reciprocal agreement between States which admits of untrammelled and unrestricted air transport to and from the parties to such a contract. It could even be a one-sided permission where a State would open its skies to any national carrier without necessarily seeking reciprocity.

Globalization goes hand in hand with connectivity and removes boundaries and barriers that existed separating societies from each other and isolating nations. Globalization brings to bear the blatant reality that increasing global connectivity, together with integration and interdependence in the economic, social, technological, cultural, political and ecological spheres, have removed all trade barriers, making a world without boundaries. Encyclopedia Britannica defines globalization as the “process by which the experience of everyday life is becoming standardized around the world.”. Globalization reflects the inevitable corollary of the contemporaneous advancement of technology and growing trends toward liberalism in international trade. The information and telecommunications revolution, which really kick started in the 1980s, dramatically lowered the costs of doing business across national borders.

The giant strides made by information technology, which took its incipient steps in the 1990s, together with paradigm shifts in trade practices such as outsourcing and offshoring, have ensured the opening of a world which no longer sees boundaries that inhibit global trade and information exchange. The movement toward outsourcing and subcontracting of services is evident in both developed and developing countries. Provision of information technology is now frequently outsourced to specialized companies. One of the distinctive characteristics of outsourcing in the context of trade is that it is not inhibited by national requirements imposing ownership restrictions, which allows trading services to blend into the process of globalization. Off-shoring on the other hand allows a business to move its base to a country where human resources are accessible at rates lower than its home base but at the same time are of the same or higher quality than found at home. China is a good example of an attractive offshore base.

The strongest thrust of globalization in the business world is its ability to generate competition within and between nations to offer the best goods and services at the lowest prices. The quality of services and pricing in China as an off-shore base have encouraged other nations, such as Malaysia, Thailand, Ireland, Vietnam, Brazil and Mexico to vigorously compete as viable off-shore bases.

There is no doubt that two of the greatest catalysts in the globalization and connectivity equation have been e-information and e-trade, which were individually and collectively spawned by the internet. Downloading and uploading are tools that make the exchange of knowledge instantly accessible throughout the globe. These tools, when viewed in the perspective of the greatest global inhibitors of all – poverty, war and ill health- open a whole new dimension of hope. There are two basic premises which are incontrovertible. The first is that globalization enhances the wealth of nations through connectivity, promotes trade and increases the gross domestic product of a country. The second is that at the very core, a compelling need of every human being is to be collective and connected to one another.

Airports use IT applications such as Cloud Computing; Big Data; and the Internet of Things for connectivity and making efficient their information flows. Airports are also tremendously benefitted by the use of IT – in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI) - in developing deep learning algorithms for risk-based assessment of threats posed by potentially dangerous goods and substances. Kevin Riordan, Head of Airports and Checkpoint Solutions at Smiths Detection says: “[T]he application of deep learning algorithms for automated threat detection requires the availability of a considerable image database, categorized in threats and unsuspicious images. Deep learning algorithms scan this information to learn which objects are potentially harmful and which are benign”.

The airport explosion would have to be in lock step with prudent adherence to law and regulation by the authorities. There are three critical factors affecting modern day airport law and regulation. They are foresight; the synergy between airports and airlines; and governance. With regard to foresight, the weather crisis at European airports in the winter of 2010 brought to bear the fundamental reality that airport planners have to be sensitive towards the three broad areas of ecology, safety and infrastructural planning when planning and running an airport. Mr. Siim Kallas, Vice President of the European Commission urged the aviation industry to introduce a set of quality standards to obviate any future disruption to air travel similar to the crippling experience of the last few weeks of December 2010 which caused airlines to cancel 35,000 flights during the crisis. The synergy between airlines and airports is another critical factor, particularly where aspects of congestion and infrastructure management are concerned. Finally, there must be good governance based on qualification and meritocracy in management; practicality, honesty and integrity.

The author is former Senior Legal Officer at The International Civil Aviation Organization. He is currently Senior Legal Associate at Aviation Strategies International. He is the author of 32 books on air transport law and economics, among which are Airport Business Law and Law and Regulation of Aerodromes.


Post a Comment