From using algorithms to meet the challenge of allocating aircraft stands to developing solutions for its passengers, operations and commercial partners, the Finnish airport company Finavia harnesses digital innovation to make travelling smooth and sustainable.
In airports all around the world, aircraft stands are allocated daily based on flight schedules and airport data. Calculations for these allocations – which comprise aircraft activities such as arrival, departure and intermediate parking – are made to facilitate smooth operations for airlines and handling agents on the one hand, and ensure airport safety and passenger convenience on the other. How can peak-hour operations be further optimised, taking into account limited resources, unpredictable weather and other constraints?
At Helsinki Airport, the challenge of allocating aircraft stands has grown too complicated for a person to do effectively. The number of gates has increased over the past few years, and rules regarding what plane can be assigned to which of the airport’s 100 stands makes the problem hard enough. Then add the preferences of airlines and commercial partners to the mix – all while maintaining safe and efficient passenger flows throughout – and everything becomes even trickier.
At Kittilä Airport in Northern Finland, meanwhile, close to 60 flights arrive and depart on the busiest days, normally around the Christmas season. At this airport, which has excellent connections to major holiday attractions and ski resorts in Lapland, a shortage of parking spots isn’t the only issue. The airport constantly needs to look for ways to provide enough buses, staff and check-in counters to meet the increase in air traffic during this time.
Serious mathematics to the rescue
The answer to both these conundrums? Let an algorithm do the hard work.
When a computer does the plan at Helsinki Airport, we open up the possibility of looking at different scenarios. The algorithm can build new alternatives and offer the best possible stand allocation when, say, the weather is bad or if parts of the airport are closed.
When it comes to Kittilä Airport, this AI application has cut the time it takes to calculate a stand allocation from three hours to a mere 30 seconds. The new parking plan created by the solution has already proven to be more robust against schedule changes.