Developing an Integrated Method of Controlling the Flow of Departing Passengers: A study of passenger departure processes at Abu Dhabi International Airport




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Today, airports form a key part of global infrastructure in an increasingly globalised world. There is great competition between them to attract passengers and serve airlines in their role of transporting people regionally and internationally. Abu Dhabi International Airport is one such airport. Terminal 3 is the home of Abu Dhabi’s major carrier, Etihad Airways, one of the world’s fastest-growing international airlines. The research described in this thesis focuses on applying the Lean methodology to the passenger departure process in Terminal 3. The essential essence of ‘Lean’ is doing more with fewer resources by adopting a programme of continuous process improvement resulting in continually declining costs, mistakes and work-in-progress. The special environment of any airport, especially a major international hub made applying Lean principles difficult. This resulted from the large presence of Class I wastes or muda which could potentially change, perhaps dramatically, at short notice. This made this research significantly different from previous applications of Lean philosophy. Also, large, cumulative variations in demand set in an environment where rapid expansion of the airport is taking place also created major difficulties because of the shifting flow of passengers. Despite this, the research succeeded in achieving its aim and developed various rules from parameters based on the acronym SERVICE and an associated implementation methodology based on the Lean philosophy. Together these will help airline managers and staff to eliminate the waste of available resources and so increase passenger flow through various stages of the process in line with Lean philosophy. The research makes several important contributions to knowledge, especially in the field of Lean improvements. The contribution of this work arises from its systematic examination of the passenger departure process. The research has facilitated developing a detailed model which addresses both particular process groups and the effects of passenger class on the allocation and use of resources. This research has shown that large differences exist between the operating environment of a major international airport and those processes to which Lean principles have previously been applied. Nevertheless, despite these differences, this research has proved the Lean philosophy may be usefully applied to airport operations. Operating conditions within the passenger departure process mean that understanding the special operating environment of airports is vital. This research resulted in a discrete event simulation model of the airport much more accurate and detailed than those described in previous studies of passenger departure processes. The research then proved an improved model, which may be used experimentally to support conclusions reached from the broader application of Lean philosophy. The research observed and analysed the effects of large and cumulative peaks and troughs in demand against a background of rapid development of Abu Dhabi Airport. The researcher also evaluated the special internal and external effects on the processes, often at short notice. Consequently, there is no single ‘universal’ solution because of the major need for operational flexibility and for a close correlation between operational and strategic need. Despite these many difficulties the results of this research are a practical and straightforward series of improvements, which may be applied by airport staff themselves without need for complex computer models, simulation or dedicated experts. This will create conditions for continuously improving process performance during the passenger departure process. It will also help managers accurately identify critical areas where more radical action of increasing physical resources is needed. Finally, based on findings, the research makes several recommendations for further work.



Lean philosophy, Airport Operations, Passenger Departure Process, Process Improvement, Passenger Flow, Variability



Research Institute