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Airport report provides useful lessons on resilience for all organizations

A major study into the resilience of UK airports has found that the agility of airports to adapt to both long-term strategic changes and short-term operational shocks is critical in sustaining their competitive advantage and business prosperity. The study also found that airport business communities will be much better prepared to survive and thrive after shocks and stresses if they work together to share and improve their collective resilience.

In the last few years, several UK airports have been hit by a series of significant disruption events, including drones flying within the no-fly zone, IT network failures, strikes and climate activist demonstrations. In May 2017 a data centre outage grounded thousands of British Airways customers at a cost to the company of over £50m. The drone intrusion at Gatwick in late 2018 closed the runway there for 33 hours and lost the airport at least £15m in revenue. Around 1,000 flights were cancelled during the busiest week of the winter for outbound departures and the total damage to carriers is estimated to be between £35m and £40m.

In addition to short-term operational shocks, airport communities are facing longer-term strategic changes, especially those posed by new technologies such as automated vehicles, electric aircraft and AI, which will disrupt current business models and infrastructure provision.

The key learnings from the report, ‘Agility within Airport Business Communities - Guidance for business communities on how to improve resilience’, are that resilient airports should:

  • Use consistent measures to assess resilience benefits and the impact of disruptions, and link departmental business impact assessments to business goals using a systems’ approach.
  • Make sure resilience objectives are included in strategic plans and systems are adaptable to future needs.
  • Use horizon scanning and scenario planning to look ahead and to understand threats and opportunities, specifically new technologies such as automated vehicles and electric aircraft, since these will disrupt current business models and infrastructure provision.
  • Utilise and share real-time data as well as harness new technologies such as AI in control systems, automated vehicles, electric aircraft and security systems.
  • Adopt a community and systems’ approach to resilience to understand all partners that contribute to business delivery and engage in resilience planning.

Although these lessons are aimed at the airport sector, many of them are relevant for all organizations, irrespective of the sector they operate in.

The study was commissioned by Resilience First and conducted by Thornton Tomasetti. Consultants from Thornton Tomasetti’s dedicated resilience practice carried out an agility survey of 120 key airport stakeholders, interviewed 35 senior airport personnel and made presentations to the boards of several UK airports as part of their research.

The study was completed in June 2019 but has only just been made available.

More details.



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