New collaboration to reduce flight delays at CPH and across Europe

An even closer collaboration between airlines, air traffic control, ground handling and Copenhagen Airport will reduce the number of delayed flights, benefiting all concerned, not least passengers. 

There are traffic jams in European air space. And that means flight delays, especially in the busy summer months.

After several years of planning, Copenhagen Airport has now rolled out a major EU initiative that will generally ensure more effective and timely air traffic operations across Europe.

The project is called Airport Collaborative Decision Making; A-CDM for short. It is currently being implemented at a number of European airports.

“The aim of the complex A-CDM collaboration is actually very simple: fewer delayed departures and more on-time arrivals. That benefits not just passengers, but also the airlines and the ground handling companies that are responsible for undertaking airport processes such as check-in, boarding and baggage handling on behalf of the airlines,” says Copenhagen Airport’s chief operating officer, Kristian Durhuus.

A huge jigsaw puzzle
Copenhagen Airport has more than 700 arrivals and departures every day – which represents a huge jigsaw puzzle that can be difficult to piece together if there are too many delays.

Copenhagen Airport’s technical director, Christian Poulsen, emphasises that the whole jigsaw puzzle and the information chain around a flight are extremely complex – from the pilot to the control tower to the airport and the ground handlers who have to be in place to receive incoming passengers and their baggage – and be ready with check-in staff and baggage crews when the flight is due to depart.

“With A-CDM we gather all the relevant information on every single flight in a shared cloud-based IT system. This means that the airline, air traffic control, the ground handlers and the airport have continuous access to the same updated information on all flights. This will make the planning and use of resources far better – for both arrivals and departures,” says Christian Poulsen.

And it works. At Heathrow Airport, the number of delayed departures has fallen by 20% since the introduction of the A-CDM system.

The higher level of shared information also enables better planning. It has reduced costs for airlines and ground handlers by 10%.

Arriving early also a problem
An aircraft flying a regular service in Europe may have to make four to six flights in a single day. A single delay can have a knock-on effect over the course of the day, with the result that the aircraft is unable to complete all its scheduled flights, which means lost money and passengers.

However, A-CDM can handle punctuality as well as delays, and it can often be just as problematic when a flight arrives early.

It may be that all the ground handler’s employees are busy taking care of other flights. And often the scheduled gate at the airport is not ready.

“It can delay every part of the big operational travel chain at airports,” says Christian Poulsen. “So a new procedure has been introduced so that flights that arrive on time are processed first. This is known as the ‘best planned, best served’ principle.”

The complex A-CDM project usually takes at least four years to implement. At Copenhagen, it has taken just two and a half years.

• The system is cloud-based and was developed by Amadeus.
• On the one hand, it comprises a complex sequence manager that optimises departures and arrivals, and the use of runways.
• On the other hand, it comprises an A-CDM portal that provides real-time updates on traffic to all concerned: airlines, the airport, air traffic control and the ground handlers processing the flights on the ground and undertaking check-in and baggage handling.
• The aim is to reduce flight delays and support EUROCONTROL’s best practice.