Whether they’re new airports or upgraded ones, these projects share protracted timelines that render them highly susceptible to change. Over the construction phase, the airports’ airlines, the sizes
and shapes of planes, and airline technology can be in flux.
So can the number of passengers an airport can expect to see. Given the volatility of the air
travel industry, it’s often difficult to make accurate growth projections, especially for emerging, dramatically expanding markets in Asia and the Middle East.
“Our clients are making long-term forecasts— 20, 30 years out—about demand and passenger
traffic, and then building based on those forecasts,” says Anthony Mor-
gan, a PwC partner, London, England, who specializes in capital projects
and has consulted on airport projects in Asia, Europe and the Middle
East. “If you’re two or three percentage points off for each year, cumula-
tively that’s going to have a big impact on your project.”
To overcome that challenge, Mr. Morgan says, project practitioners
should break down these initiatives into components. “Then, as you get
more confident with your projections over time,” he adds, “you can add
more components.” That allows changes to be made along the way.
In 2009, London Heathrow Airport launched the first phase of a £ 2. 5
billion new terminal. During construction, the carrier that would have
the largest presence in the terminal, BMI, was sold and integrated into
British Airways. Fortunately, the Heathrow team had strong project
controls in place that allowed for changes, even late in the construction
phase, to accommodate a new mix of carriers—while not affecting the
budget or the June 2014 opening.
By contrast, at Qatar’s new Hamad International Airport, construction
changes resulted in a years-long delay and a US$15 billion budget that
had doubled from the initial estimate by the time the facility opened in April 2014.
Bend, Don’t Break
A flexible project management approach also
means flexible construction and design, Mr. Morgan says.
With an adjustable airport design—in particular, a modular design that allows walls to be
moved—more space can be added later, spaces
can be repurposed as needs change, and construction can be reined in if
demand does not meet projections, he says.
Function should trump
form. Many cities want their
airports to be innovative,
architectural jewels, but
ambitious designs can create unexpected challenges.
“Some of these terminal
buildings have a wow fac-
Construction projects in Dubai,
the United Arab Emirates now
should expect governance oversight not only from inspectors
on the ground, but also from the
skies. A drone is being used to
help inspectors record
construction site violations.
“It is very accurate and definitely saves the inspectors’ time
and efforts, as it allows the team
to monitor every movement from
the screen attached on the remote
control and then note any violations by taking close pictures,”
Saqr Ghobash, the minister of
labor, told The National. Outfitted
with a high-definition camera, the
remote-controlled drone can cover
2 square kilometers (0.8 square
miles) over its 15- to 20-minute
battery lifespan, and it can fly as
high as 1 kilometer (0.6 miles).
The ministry of labor introduced the technology last year
to help inspectors monitor site
violations—especially those of a
midday-break law that protects
laborers from the risks of extreme
heat and sun exposure during the
hottest months of the year. Several
Middle Eastern countries have such
a ban. In the United Arab Emirates,
the ban, which has been in place
for the past decade, lasts two and
a half hours each day.
Before the ministry introduced
the drone, it found that 56 project
sites violated the midday ban during an almost two-month period
in 2014. Yet that represented
only 0.12 percent of the almost
45,000 sites inspected. With the
new drone watching from above,
it could be easier to catch violations. Projects caught violating
the ban face thousands of U.S.
dollars in fines as well as temporary suspensions. —M. Wright
“You have to
the risks and
the outset of a
project and try
to mitigate the
when it comes
Airport expansion projects in Dubai,
United Arab Emirates and Los Angeles,