Brazil Needs a Much More Modern Airport Infrastructure Model

GRUBy Respicio A. Espirito Santo Jr.1, Erivelton Pires Guedes2, Dorieldo Luiz dos Prazeres3, Rogerio Pecci Filho4

During the AIRPORT EVOLUTION LATIN AMERICA 2011 conference in São Paulo on May 11th‐12th what many suspected became true: neither Infraero nor the federal authorities in Brasilia have a “Plan B” to the current torrent of various bottlenecks and very low level of service at major Brazilian airports for the short‐term (neither for the FIFA Soccer World Cup of 2014). And this was confirmed by the evasive responses given by the representative of Infraero during the before mentioned event when specifically asked about this matter.

Also, the lecturers agree on the fact São Paulo needs urgently a new airport. As a matter of fact, considering that nothing real has been done and officially confirmed by the government at the time of writing, common sense suggests that – as strange as it may sound – probably there is also no “Plan A” as well. Complementing it, GRU’s Terminal 3 is “being designed” and “the project is on time” since the late 90s when the then‐president of Infraero “confirmed” that it would be operational “in the next few years”. Twelve or more years have passed, domestic enplanements in Brazil have more than doubled since then but there isn’t a single brick of GRU’s T3 put in place. Considering the above plus all the past mis‐sayings and long‐lasting undefined issues, a question arises: Is there any strategic planning culture at Infraero and at the higher government levels regarding airport infrastructure?

In order to collaborate with the debate, the authors have written this 2‐page article highlighting a series of relevant aspects to be raised in the discussion. These aspects were built up on a simplified bullet‐point format.
What the Brazilian government (and the Brazilian society) should be looking for in terms of airport infrastructure and airport management to effectively modernize the current slow‐pace, centralized and monopolistic model:

a) Safety and security (this must always be the starting point, no matter in the world where the airport is located).
b) Agility and flexibility for planning, operations and management decisions.
c) Multi/plural and systemic approaches and expertise.
d) A continuous flow of (and large amounts of) capital/investments.
e) Direct competition between airports.
f) Modern, future‐thinking management and operational practices.
g) A very high level of service (in all terms) for passengers, companions, visitors, and all other airport customers.
h) Pro‐active and direct partnerships plus coordinated planning, operations and execution between the airport operator, airlines, border control and immigration authorities, law enforcement, transit and transportation authorities, environmental authorities, health authorities, etc.
i) The airport as a social, cultural and economic multiplier for its catchment area.
j) The airport as a multi‐service provider for the Brazilian society, the economy and the aviation industry.

Looking at the above, concessions of airports to private consortiums, authorizations to private firms built and operate private airports, and wise public‐private partnerships (PPPs) immediately come into the debate. We could sum these three as “privatization” options. Following this way, it is possible to list the potential reasons for privatization as:

a) To encourage more efficient and commercial operations.
b) To reduce/minimize government bureaucracies.
c) To secure financing and building of airport infrastructure on a faster pace.
d) To access international expertise.
e) To provide a wider share of ownership.
f) To provide funds for governments (and for non‐profitable airports).
g) To increase flexibility, speed and wider‐view approaches in daily, tactical and strategic decision making.
h) To install or increase direct competition within the airport system (between airports).
i) To indirectly promote airline competition.
j) To turn the airport into a true social catalyzer and economic multiplier.
k) To turn passengers, companions, visitors, airlines, catchment area businesses, etc. into customers and not simple “users”.

However union representatives and other individuals will argue that major airport management and operation is a “strategic” and “sovereign” activity that cannot be passed on to private firms. Besides this, it is common to hear that Infraero is “the largest airport operator in the world” and its critical problems are not internal, but a result of some “unreasonable” federal regulations and very rigid oversight by the TCU, the Brazilian parallel of the U.S. General Accountability Office.

In response to the above, not only there are several much more “strategic” and “sovereign”‐related services that have been privatized in Brazil (telecommunications and water distribution/treatment, just to mention two of a set that could be labeled as “truly strategic”), but there is a set of conveniently forgotten aspects that are never raised by the ones against any sort of privatization:

a) Infraero‐managed airports do not belong to Infraero.
b) Infraero is a state‐owned and state‐controlled company guided by federal government policies, not otherwise!
c) As a direct result of the above, Infraero does not have the right to claim or to input any ‘political pressure’ regarding its preference to manage this or that airport.
d) Infraero is not a concessionary; it is a firm that represents the federal government for airport operation and management.
e) Infraero’s full cross‐subsidy model is not well seen by ICAO.
f) Other state‐owned and state‐controlled organizations are immersed in highly competitive and open markets (like Petrobras, Banco do Brasil, etc. and operate very successfully!), therefore – if faced by strong private airport operators – Infraero should not fear anything.
g) Just as mentioned above, other once 100% state‐controlled and state‐run sectors – much more “strategic” than airports – have been “privatized” in Brazil and the level of service to the general public has been overwhelmingly enhanced if compared to when operated by state firms.

But in order to achieve any significant success in any future airport privatization model (either concessions of the entire airport, or just the passenger terminals, or several PPPs, or authorizations), several aspects must be very well taken care of and special attention must be focused on:

a) The regulator (in the Brazilian case the National Civil Aviation Agency, ANAC) must be strong, proactive, system wide‐thinking/planning, neutral and independent from the government.
b) The regulator must elaborate a wise, thorough and comprehensive (yet uncomplicated) bidding process and the concession/privatization contract itself.
c) The concession contract must contain a future expansion plan for at least a 20‐year horizon.
d) The concession contract must introduce the obligation of an extensive array of plausible, measurable and to‐bepublicized and to‐be‐monitored indicators (social, economic, environmental, etc).
e) The concession contract must impose a set of present and future environmental obligations and responsibilities.
f) The concession contract must impose and state the terms of establishing direct and continuous society/community participation and how it would function as an “outside controller” and a “guardian” of specific
terms of the concession contract itself.

Though privatizing some of its major airports, Brazil would introduce direct competition between airports; with competition comes efficiency and much better services to the public, companions, visitors and to the airlines. Besides privatizing, the federal government could also turn a few major airports to its home States to operate and manage (São Paulo‐Congonhas/CGH would be a clear potential example). By doing this, more competition would take place. And the expectation with all this new competition is that Infraero will definitely be a much better organization.

Many people in Brazil ask “Why privatize?” But the question to be thoroughly answered should be: “Why not?!”

1 Corresponding author:
2 D.Sc. in Transportation Engineering,
3 MBA in Air Transport Regulation,

Airport Punctuality, Congestion and Delay: The Scope for Benchmarking

Airport performance benchmarking increasingly requires level-of-service (LoS) indicators for afair comparison among members of the same peer group. For a true performance analysis such inclusion of quality measures is necessary to differentiate airports with similar pure output quantities, i.e. number of aircraft movements. Since variation of scheduled times versus actual times could substantially cause accumulating operating costs for carriers and could furthermore pose the risk and inconvenience of missed connections for the passengers, this article examines determinants of flight delays at airports, and thereby developing performance indicators such as slot capacity utilization, queueing time and punctuality. The essence of underlying phenomena in queueing theory such as Little’s Law, arrival and departure distributions, and cumulative throughput and demand diagrams are briefly explained. This work’s aim is the exploration of ways of measuring and observing performance quality from actual flight schedules with a focus on usability for subsequent airport benchmarking and traffic modeling.

Airports as Cityports in the City Region by Michel van Wijk

Book Review by Anne Graham

Spatial-economic and institutional positions and institutional learning in Randstad Schiphol (AMS), Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA), Tokyo Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT).  

A growing number of airports are developing as major cityports within their respective cityregions, yet literature related to the spatial-economic and institutional position of these airports is rare. By looking into three detailed case studies in the Netherlands, Germany and Japan, Michel Van Wijk provides many new fascinating insights about this topic. 

Development of Airport Regions: Varieties of Institutions in Schiphol and Frankfurt

In the era of globalization, airports are rapidly developing as new economic centers of the cityregion. Despite internationally comparative economic trends and the challenge of urban planning this brings along, the institutional conditions for the actors involved remain rather local. Development agencies are set up for spatial-economic development of the airport region. A closer look at regional development agencies in the cases of Amsterdam (Schiphol Area Development Company) and Frankfurt (Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund) illustrates great varieties in institutional systems, and in their impact on planning. Both celebrated their anniversaries recently. What have been the results so far, and how can each learn from the other in order to integrate infrastructure and land supply in planning in the context of changing governance structures in finding a balance between exploiting and protecting the airport area?

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Carlisle, UK: Open Air(port) Museum?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to get off campus in Cranfield and visit the Lake District in the north of England. The beauty of the nature up there was really stunning. Mountains (some might say hills, but I am Dutch you see), lakes and woods. A good tourist attraction was the Pencil Museum in Keswick. All very worthwhile.

Then on Saturday we (no, I was not alone) read an article in the local newspaper about Carlisle Airport. Some millionaire had bought it and had great plans for it. Flights to London, and the Netherlands with larger aircraft (737). So after our visit to Hadrians Wall we drove to Carlisle, which is the capitol of the County, Cumbria.

Nearing the airport we could see a couple of houses up for sale (just in case?). Driving towards the “Terminal Building” there was an AVRO Vulcan standing there to be admired by visitors and birds seeking housing. Indeed there was a terminal building, and the departure lounge was preserved (as you can see on photo of lounge).

How wonderful, picture perfect to put in a book on last centuries departure interiors. Three check in counters, places to sit back and read the flyers from the flyer rack. It does become evident that there are no real big commercial flights from here, unless you want to have people waiting outside.

Well across the departure lounge is of course the cafeteria, a little fancier than the one at Cranfield Airport, but still the air of a flight club perhaps. The chips are nice and crunchy. So another reason to go to Carlisle Airport.

So if you are touring around in Cumbria, this might be a worthwhile stop…at least until they are serious aboout developing the site further!


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