Adaptive Airports – Why Do We Need To Build Today, The Resilience Of Tomorrow?

How can we enhance the resilience of airports to better prepare them for a changing climate? The Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (ICCP) recently published its last report “AR6 Synthesis Report Climate Change 2022” [1], warning us about the increase in intensity and frequency of extreme weather events as well as global change of the current weather conditions patterns. Airports are vulnerable infrastructure to natural disasters and they are very sensitive to weather conditions for their operation.

In 2017, Princess Julianna Airport was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma depriving the island from this vital piece of infrastructure. Four years after the event, reconstruction is still not completed. Additionally, in 2018, the typhoon Jebi caused the flooding at Kansai International Airport, stranding 5 000 passengers at the airport [2]. More recently, strong winds at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport have caused two parked aircraft to collide [3].

These examples can no longer be treated as incidental, and show the diversity of disruptions caused by climate change and their significant impact on airports. According to a survey carried out by Airport Council International (ACI), “Almost 70% of airport operators who responded to the ACI survey on Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change in 2019 reported that they had already been impacted by adverse weather patterns and conditions.” [4]

Climate change introduces a wide range of risks and impact

In 2020, EUROCONTROL and ICAO drew up the following non-exhaustive list of events that can jeopardize airport infrastructure and operations:

Figure: Climate changes and their consequences on Airport infrastructure adapted from EUROCONTROL and ICAO

This set of hazards comes on top of many safety, security, environmental and operational requirements that airports must already handle. However, considering the diversity of potential airport disruptions and considering the pessimistic ICCP previsions, not taking into account airport resiliency towards climate changes could become very costly for airport stakeholders. The increased likelihood for disruption will jeopardize airports’ business. It may become complicated to fulfil their missions and responsibilities towards stakeholders, which will generate more operational and maintenance expenses, as well as contribute to the drop of revenue and investment level. To ensure the airport economic viability and infrastructure sustainability, climate change must become todays’ priority.

The vital role of airports during natural disasters

It is also important to remember that airports are vital infrastructure when natural disasters occur. They can play a strategic role in preventive evacuation, and they are also used as the first or only access route for emergency services. That is why, since November 2020, ACI advised airport stakeholders to put sustainability at the core of their recovery plans: “Keep climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience as key parts of their strategies and recovery plans and identify opportunities to ‘build back better’ by keeping sustainability and resilience at the core of their recovery strategies”. [4]

Making your airport resilient

How to put these recommendations into practice? Every airport is facing different conditions, and at AirportCreators we are committed to create tailored solutions for your airport organization. We start by mapping global, regional, and local hazards that can endanger your airport infrastructure and operation. By prioritising different risks depending on the severity of their impact and their frequency of occurrence, a tailored prevention and mitigation plan can be established. The implementation of these measures can then be done through the existing risk management structure of your airport. Our expertise ensures that end to end solutions are realized based on the identified risk profile.

Is your airport already facing climatic disruptions? Are you already committed to making your airport resilient for this upcoming challenge? AirportCreators is ready to assist you.





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