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Landing an Airport?
Airport Development and Strategic Land
Use Planning
1.3 No time like the presentin the EU
While 2008 has been a year of upheaval in air traffic, it is important not to lose sight of the long-term
challenges and goals, or to decrease the momentum towards those goals achieved in the last four years.
Most airports are situated in densely populated metropolitan areas and both the metropolitan agglo-
merations and the international airports, have been 4
It might seem odd to look 20 years ahead in 2008, when
each week seems to bring new economic surprises and
Passenger numbers, cargo volumes and load factors
are falling.
by excessive growth. There is an
upheaval including:
increased tension between the traditional planning methods 4 There are andmajor international
economic discussions
reality in theabout envi- area.
ronmental legislation.
4 The Euro planning and increased
area economy (international) regulation have considerable effects on the surrounding
has stopped growing.
4 Fuel prices have recently doubled before dropping by The conclusion is clear: 2009 will be enough of a chal-
areas. The debates on noise, safety and health tend to
a third. lengeevolve
withoutinto debates
worrying on “acceptable” limits, and
about 2030.
4 Business aviation and especially low-cost carri-
thus actually deal with implementation of the airportSuch
ers have for years been the driving force for traffic
anda view
airport-effects. Simultaneously airport are
would be complacent. This is exactly the right
growth in Europe,
increasingly but that as
recognised growth has now halved regional economic
multifunctional time to forecast and analyse
centres. the results.
In reality isAthe
forecast is afterof
quality all spatial
(for low-cost carriers) or stopped (for business about giving structure to uncertainty. The growth of avia-
policy and planning sub-optimal because it lacks to settion
aviation). thehasagenda,
hit periods isofnot forward
turbulence and and outward
crisis in focused
the past (for
4 A number of long-haul, low-cost operators (including example: 1974 oil, 1981 oil, 1991 Iraq, and 2001 terror) and
often fails to take
business) into account
have stopped flying. the dynamics at and around
will do so again thein thesite.
future. This forecast allows a course
4 Several major flag carriers are being sold or heavily to be refined and held through turbulent times. Steering
by: Mariëlle Prins
restructured. current
througheconomic crisis and
2009 will certainly be aits effectchallenge,
severe on the airbuttransport
the air sector,
4 The banking system is in crisis, so liquidity has dried there
every reason
needs toto emerge
that the
once the heading
storm economy in picks up,
up, adding
Airport to cash-fla
Development: owRelation
difficultiestoand re-financing
Economic Growth air
thetraffic growth (Section
right direction will pick2.7up.discusses
Commonsome sense
of thus imposes that
the risks
Air challenges
traffic growth in theand world wide GDP growth are linked:
Industry. inbeyond
the long theterm,
scopeEurocontrol refers to 2030, growth is accounted
of the forecast).
A general rule of the thumb is that the air traffic growth is in for in airport planning and spatial planning.
line with world wide economic growth, but just a few (2-3)
1.4 Three
percentage pointslinked
higher. Thegrowth economy modes
and demand for air A Looming ‘Capacity Crunch’?
transport of goods and people grow together. For the European The European air transport industry has seen the demand for air
situation a clearoftrend
Growth 2008
line can starts with
be detected, as isthree
in figureof growth: growing
travel increase economies,
three-fold between growing
1980 and demand
2000 (ACI, ATAG
transport,2008). and growing numbers of flights. The three 2006). The European
modes Commission
are likely to remain stateslinked
that within the European
for the
foreseeable future. Union the growth of aviation is such that there is an looming
No evidence has been rendered of a potential decoupling between ‘capacity crunch’, an insufficient capacity to accommodate the
GDP growth and
The economy per capita
and demand departure,
for air transport although
of goods andthe people
effect is
growair trafficIngrowth
together. some ofinthe
longer term
mature (EC, of
markets 2007). Despite the
stronger in theis some
Europe, there less mature
evidence markets
that theof the Eastern
relationship Europeanbut current
is weakening, they are economic crisis, a review
not as the economists of airport Indeed,
says “decoupled”. extension plans
many of thethanairintransport
the moremarkets
Eastern markets.
Europe areDespite
and have athelongEuropean Union
way to grow reveal
before a planned
maturity. Figure 2 capacity
shows the relationship between gross domestic product (GDP) and flight departures2. There is a clear trend line3. increase of 41% in the
Figure 1: Per capita flight departures v per capita GDP (2007 traffic, 2006 GDP) period 2007-2030.
Departures per 1000 people

Eurocontrol maintains
that under what they
Norway consider the most
likely growth scenario,
which is a combination
of moderate economic
growth and an
Malta Cyprus
increasingly regulated
Finland Switzerland operating environment,
Greece Belgium/Lux
11% of the flights will
Estonia Portugal Italy
Latvia Slovenia Germany not be accommodated
0 (Eurocontrol, 2009). In
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 this estimate it is taken
GDP (Thousand Euro/Person)
for granted that current
Source: Challenges to Growth, Eurocontrol, 2008, p 7.
Figure 2. Per Capita Flight Departures v Per Capita GDP (2007 traffic, 2006 GDP)

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airport plans will be implemented. But, and this is exactly the
bottleneck, it is unclear whether even the existing plans can and
will be delivered.

Airport Development: the Importance of Land side Revenues
What are the underlying factors that render airport plans difficult
to implement? In the current crisis times there is obviously
the question of the financing of the additional infrastructure.
The Airport Council International (ACI) forecasts a capital
expenditure of €8.1 to €8.5 billion per annum until 2015 needed
for European airport infrastructure (ACI, 2008). Additional
capacity will increasingly need to be funded by airport
authorities themselves.

Basically, airport authorities have two ways to increase revenues:
via the aeronautical or via the non-aeronautical activities.
Aeronautical revenues (mainly landing fees and concessions)
remain the largest revenue source, but their share in the total
operational results is diminishing. Airport charges in particular are
increasingly subject to stringent regulatory policies. On January
15 2008 the European Parliament approved a Commission
proposal on airport charges. The legislative report sets out
common principles for levying airport charges at Community
airports and allows pre-financing of new infrastructure projects
through increased airport charges. Although in some countries
(for example Spain) an increase in airport charges can be
expected; it will not cover the total capital expenditure needed to
finance additional infrastructure (ACI, 2007).

Moreover the aeronautical revenues are vulnerable to market
swings. IATA (2009) reports a 2.7% fall of passenger traffic in
December 2008 as compared to December 2007 and a 21.1%
drop in cargo traffic. Business indicators for Europe forecast a
10 % in industrial production and a 20% fall in trade for 2009,
indicating the meagre results could well persist throughout 2009.
This vulnerability to economic cycles underlines the importance
of non-aeronautical revenues to airport authorities.

The percentage of non-aeronautical revenues is in the EU on
average between 40% and 50% of the total revenues. Following
the example of the Schiphol Group we divide non-aeronautical
revenues in the consumer related revenues (parking, concession
fees for retail contracts, management and advertising) and real
estate related. The latter encompasses revenues from rents
(including ground rents), sales, release of land for development
and the fair value gains or losses on property.

The Airport: from Infrastructure Facility to Economic Centre
Not only has the business driver for optimising the location
value of the airport site changed, so has the site itself. Over
the last decade we have seen many airport concepts arise that
focus on the land side developments. The airport as (part of) a
city concept seems to be prevailing at the moment; similar terms
like aérovilles, aerotropolises and airport regions are debated at
regular intervals in a wide variety of countries. In the early days
of airports, the 1950s, people came to airports to watch planes
take off and land and to eat in elegant restaurants. During the two
decennia that followed, air travel became less exclusive and this
tradition waned. Airports became transit-points. More recently
airports re-develop into multiple function centres, destinations for
mixed-use. Airports authorities are no longer the mere providers
of infrastructure for airlines.
Map 1: Proposed land use plan for the multimodal international hub
airport at Nagpur in India in 2007. Source: MA_DC, see references.

Planning Airport
Here we touch the
core of the problem:
airport plans are
difficult to implement
because the nature of
the development has
changed. Whereas
in the early days of
airport development,
the expansion of the
airport was the task
of the airport operator
(acting more or less in
Figure 2: Airport growth and its effects over time ‘splendid isolation’),
Source: M.E. Prins, 2008 nowadays airport expansion is a question of making optimal
use of the economic potential of a site. Developing airports as
Most of the European airports are situated in densely populated
economic centres places them equally at the heart of regional and
metropolitan areas. Typically between 15 and 40 kilometres from
national economic and spatial planning policies. Airports and
a city centre. The combination of the overall spread of the urban
airport development are one of the major dilemmas, one of the
field and the increase in volume of employees and passengers
issues on which a conflict of interests emerges when it comes
facilitates the economic development at and around airports. The
down to the formulation of a longer term planning policy.
mix of activities and services is less exclusive than at the airports
of the 1950s and more like an urban development. The revenues
The debate on the future development of airports is an illustration
per square meter tend to decline the further away the location
of the growing dualism between administrative space and
from the core of the airport; a similarity shared with many urban
economic space within these regions, as Friedmann (1995)
centres (Booz Alan Hamilton 2007).
noticed; A growing social schizophrenia resulting from the
double covering of, on the one hand, regional societies and local
The Economic Impact of Airports
institutions, and, on the other hand, the rules and operations of
The local economic impact of airports has been subject to study
the economic system at the international level. This leads to the
ever since the debates on the necessity of additional runways,
question: With which goals, to what extent, by whom and on
terminals and night flights started. To offset the negative impact
which base can planning in these cases be done?
of air traffic growth, the aviation industry has underlined the
economic benefits to society. This means that many studies
So, we need to recapitulate the planning practices at and around
undertaken in to measure economic impacts are designed to
airport sites. To divide between the different forms of planning,
prove a maximum impact, in particular via the use of a multiplier
we use the following definitions (Ineco, 2006):
to calculate the spin-off effects. By now an accepted figure
Airport master planning: The planning of the airport
for the economic potential of an international European hub
infrastructure and lay-out (including the real estate component),
airport is estimated to be in the order of 1.000 jobs per million
as done by the airport authority. The term airport planning
passengers and 900-1.000 jobs per 0.1 ton cargo (ACI, 1998;
covers in general both the planning of the technical facility as
York Consulting, 2005).
well as broader master planning
Spatial planning: In order to operate a commercial airport or
This figure is the average of the impact measured around larger
to develop other uses at existing airports inevitable planning
non low cost airports in Europe. However, after the initial
permissions and operating licenses are required. We enter here
expansion phase of an airport an optimum is reached; the number
of jobs created per million passengers will start to Figure 3: Bottlenecks in airport development and the corresponding
decrease. The average amount of jobs created per institutional levels
million passengers at a large airport in 1998 was thus
slightly higher than in 2005. The internal efficiency of
the airport platform, through economies of scale and
scope, is increasingly optimised. This means that a
larger quantity of persons and goods can be handled
without creating the impressive external economic
effects from the begin-period, and thus slowing down
the curve of the direct effects.

Simultaneously the number of firms at the site
multiplies, profiting of the volumes that transit the
site. Over time the larger traffic volumes permit the
localisation of more and more indirect and derived
economic activities. The spin-off effects start to
increase. In other words, a ‘location’-threshold is
passed; the airport becomes an interesting location for
non-air traffic related activities.

the realm of spatial planning; plans that are prepared by the standards, but through an optimal use of the site which benefits
responsible public authority as part of their spatial, economic the larger region. In the words of the European Commission; we
and social policies. These plans can have a legally binding need a much better co-ordination of airport plans and land-use
status. Spatial planning concerns policy-making whereby planning (EC, 2007). There is a problem; spatial policy is no
across the European Union the most binding plans are produced competence of the European Commission, the ICAO, the IATA or
by local governments. any other of the international institutions dealing with aviation.

The Role of International Institutions In daily practice spatial planning policies often actually deal
Airport planning is largely regulated by international institutional with implementation of international standards concerning
bodies, a set of actors that were set up to regulate the air traffic airport development, instead of addressing the strategic planning
industry at a global level. In other words, the regulators of the issues. The debates on standards of noise, safety and health tend
economic system at the international level quoted above. Their to evolve into debates on “acceptable” limits. Although spatial
creation was necessary in order to deal with the two important planning systems in Europe share many common traits, Member
bottlenecks in the early days of aviation; state sovereignty over States will have different national or even regional systems.
airspace and the free movement of persons and goods. In the Almost all Member States have a legally binding local land use
European case there is, since the instalment of the Single European plan and some sort of national strategy on airport planning. Some
Sky in 2005, also a change in the institutional balance in favour observations on key issues which have appeared to be lacking in
of the European Commission. The result is visible in many sector planning documents throughout the EU (Ineco, 2005):
regulations that serve as prevailing planning restrictions at the site. Planning or changing the use of an airport entail all kinds of
Although spatial planning is not a competence of international changes in the spatial effects, in terms of necessary restrictions
institutions such as the ICAO or the European Commission, the and land reserves. Local land-use plans tend to accommodate
body of regulation that is stemming from these levels is shaping existing uses rather than convey a longer term perspective
the framework for development. Airport authorities do not have a strategic vision on the
larger airport area development or do not state this vision to
In figure 3 the bottlenecks in the development of the aviation the planning authorities
industry are pictured next to the relevant actors and institutional Regional and especially local planners lack the necessary
bodies. The question of airport development, here labelled as technical information to judge the expected or planned airport
territorial capacity is an issue that is moving into the heart of the site developments
debate. It becomes a focal point for the international institutional
levels and economic players (upward mobility in the figure). A Turning Point?
Since the 1990s it is often stated that the real capacity limits are The planning of airports is a true growth management issue. On
not so much the technical limits as the environmental or socially the one hand, the continuing growth and severe impact of civil
acceptable limits. aviation activities on the environment can no longer be neglected.
On the other hand, the contribution of airports to the functioning
In order to create a harmonised transport system ICAO, FAA of the economy in a much wider area calls for the continuation
and other similar aviation authorities publish manuals on airport of the growth of the civil aviation sector. The growth of aviation
planning. Over time the importance of the landside effects of in the decades to come will be such that there is a need to have a
airports was incorporated more and more into the guidelines sound growth management strategy.
and manuals. In practice airport plans are mostly airport lay
out plans with a medium term horizon Figure 4: Territorial
Figure 4.capacity:
capacity: the traditional
traditional view and theviewalternative
and the alternative framework
(4-10 years). These airport plans have
in general no regulatory status but are
in the best cases instrumentalised in Traditional view: Addressing the crunch Alternative framework: airport as economic
regulatory spatial plans. Airport planning - Airport infrastructure is a fixed centre
resource, the value of which is - Airport infrastructure is a variable
traditionally focused on the airport
determined by the volume within resource of which the total value is
lay out plan. It covers providing the technical and environmental limits determined by its local carrying
adequate facilities based on the technical - These limits and conditions are set capacity, meaning:
requirements of successive generations (and controlled) by an external party - The limits and conditions are the
of aircraft, to terminal design including - Pressure on capacity is a supply temporary results from the balance
problem, between interests of public and
retail routing and a plan de masse; a map - The nature of development pursued is private actors and citizens,
of the site where building volumes are one of increasing the accommodation - Pressure on capacity indicate changes
represented. Off-site airport effects are of traffic in this balance,
mostly published separately in the form - Decision making arena: international - The nature of development pursued is
guidelines on technical and optimizing the socio-economic
of planning restrictions such as noise
environmental standards and development potential
contours. requirements, local application and - Decision making arena; the context is
control, set by international rules and
Airport Versus Spatial Planning - Limited or no focus on socio- guidelines, but the real trade-off is
However airport planning does not stop economic aspects, except as argument different per situation,
to underline the need for - Socio-economic aspects are crucial to
at technical standards, in order to grow accommodation of air traffic, no the debate, it co-determines the total
the limit for many, if not all airports is specific rules or guidelines on the value of the territorial capacity and
the public and political acceptance of implementation of other than air represents the added value of the
this growth. The only way to acquire business firms at and around the airport to the participants in the
this acceptance is not only through a airport site. debate.
perfect implantation of the international Source: M.E. Prins, 2008

There are two ways of dealing with this issue. A traditional view About the Author
which supposes a clear definition of technical and environmental Mariëlle Prins (1973) holds a Master degree in human geography
limits for further development set by an external authority. and spatial planning with a major in economic geography from the
Pressure on the ‘carrying capacity’, the total weight of the effects University of Utrecht. She has been a partner of Prins Development
Consultants since 1997. Based in Brussels, she is responsible for
of the air transport activities in a specific area, is in the traditional
PDC’s European activities. Mariëlle has concluded a strategic alliance
view an infrastructure supply problem. It can be overcome by with Drivers Jonas, a major British consultancy, with whom she set
dictating the technical and environmental rules. The nature of up an airport team providing dedicated services to airports, public
the development pursued is in the first place to safeguard the and private parties. To contact Mariëlle Prins:
accommodation of an increased air traffic volume. The technical
and environmental standards are valid for all airports, the role of References
the local governments is at most to apply and control. The fact that Airport Council International (ACI) Europe: How to address the
airports generate wider economic development is an argument that capacity challenge. The European Aviation Club Brussels 19 June
is used to underline the need for air traffic infrastructure, however 2007
it is often not the first goal. Existing international institutions will, Air Transport Action Group (ATAG): The economic and social
in line with the current trend, try to regulate more in detail the benefits of airtransport, Geneva, 2006
spatial effects of airport growth, in order to safeguard sufficient Booz Allan Hamilton: Developing an airport city, The airport city
accommodation of air traffic. conference Frankfurt, 26 April 2007
Betancor, O. & R. Rendeiro: Regulating privatised infrastructure
An alternative view to understand the issue of territorial capacity and airport services. University of Las Palmas, Worldbank working
paper, September 1999.
starts with the acknowledgement that international regulation
Bruegmann, R.: Airport city, in: J. Zukowsky (ed.) Building for
translates into planning restrictions at a site, but that this does not
air travel, Architecture and design for commercial aviation. Prestel
mean longer term planning is taken care of, nor that a formula Munich – New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1996.
for reaching a optimal development at a specific airport site is Button, K.: Transport terminals, interchanges and economic
handed down. However, such a longer term ‘formula’, a good development, pp. 241-247 in: D. Banister: Transport and Urban
spatial planning policy, is necessary to acquire sufficient support development, 1995, E&FN Spon, London.
for the airport developments. Eurocontrol Experimental Centre: Politis study, The growth of
airtransport as seen by the political actors in Europe (2000-2006),
The characteristics of the alternative framework follow from EEC note No. 10/07, Brussels, November 2007
the assumption that the total capacity is a variable resource. As Eurocontrol, Challenges of Growth, November 2008
such is takes into account the ideas of dynamic strategic planning European Commission (EC): An action plan for airport capacity,
of airports as described by De Neufville and Odoni (2003). A efficiency and safety in Europe, Brussels, 24 January 2007
pressure on the capacity is not merely a supply-problem but the Friedmann, J.: Where we stand: a decade of world city research,
outcome of the tension between public and private interests, pp. 21-45, in: Knox, P. and P.J. Taylor (eds.) 1995, World cities in a
world system, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
actors and citizens. Air traffic infrastructure is not only a
Fukuda-Parr, S., C. Lopes & K. Malik, Institutional innovations
technical and environmental resource, but it has a role to play in
for capacity development, UNDP. 2002
the socio-economic development of the region. The debates on Healey, P. Planning through debate: the communicative turn in
either aspects of this capacity (such as environment) as well as planning theory. In: S. Campbell and S. Fainstein (eds.) , Readings in
the total carrying capacity are reflected in this balance and can planning theory, Blackwell Publishers, 1992
change over time. In the alternative framework the real trade- IATA, Cargo plummets 22.6% in December, press release January
off between the international and national guidelines takes place 29 2009
in the local situation (home-grown solutions). As such this INECO, IAA & Aviasolutions: Study on the functioning of the
alternative framework takes a view of development that is in line internal market, European Commission TREN-4/MD/S07.37804,
with the trends in development aid where equally the focus shifts land use planning and management in the EU, Brussels 2005
from providing infrastructure to a ‘scan global – reinvent local’ Millour, B. (Aéroports de Paris), L’évolution du trafic sur les
strategy (Fukuda-Parr et al, 2002). aéroports communautaires durant les dix dernières années. Séminaire
Airport Regions Conference / IAURIF. Quelles réponses à la
saturation des grands aéroports ? Paris, 2000.
Concluding Remarks
De Neufville, R. & A. Odoni: Airport systems. Planning, design
Basically we face a period in which the balance will tilt towards and management, New York, 2003
more international regulation unless there is a more active role for Perl, A. : The changing role of environmental knowledge in civil
and better integration with spatial planning at the site. Airports are, aviation policy, in: actes du colloque, les aéroports de demain,
it seems almost a European tradition, located on administrative dixièmes entretiens Jacques Cartier, LET Lyon 8 et 9 December
boundaries. Regardless the size of the platform, the effects of 1997.
airports obviously transcend the local level. Next to environmental Prins, M.E.: Addressing the gap between airport and land use
issues, one should think of the adequate provision of road and rail planning in the EU. ACED conference Kuala Lumpur 14 October
access, the permission and distribution of commercial real estate, 2008
the development of housing areas…These are all subjects one Prins, M.E. : Landing an airport. Real Corp conference Vienna, 19
should be aware of; although located off airport the external effects May 2008.
on the quality of the airport location are crucial. This multitude York Aviation & ACI : The social and economic impact of airports
in Europe. Brussels, 2004
of aspects cannot be regulated by international institutions, which
Graphical credit page 2:
indeed do not have the competence to deal with spatial planning.
Creating airports as multifunctional centres is in the end a local
affair. Put in different words: airport city development is all about
creating an optimal mix of uses at the airport site but anchored is
a wider (economic) region.

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