Does collaboration really get things done faster? The answer is yes.

20 April 2016

Collaboration gets things done, faster and better. Really? For airports that apply EUROCONTROL’s collaborative decision-making concept, the answer is indubitably: “Yes!”

The results are clear: look at these results taken from 17 airports in 2015:

Total savings generated across 17 CDM airports in 2015 (based only on taxi-out times and ATFM delay improvements)

The Airport - Collaborative Decision-Making (A-CDM) concept was first applied at Munich airport in July 2007; uptake by other European airports was gradual to begin with but now there are 18 A-CDM airports in Europe - and over 34% of ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference area) departures now take place from a CDM airport.

Each flight leaving a CDM airport sends a Departure Planning Information message to the Network Manager, who then uses this information to update flight information on a network basis, so reducing the potential for sector over-deliveries. Having access to up-to-the-minute, highly accurate data allows the Network Manager to have a much more precise view of traffic in the network. This overview makes for increased predictability, which in turn leads to safer, more efficient operations throughout.

At the airport itself, all operational stakeholders collaborate in the exchange of information, making sure that the services needed are at the right place at the right time. This optimises service levels overall and runway usage in particular. It has made for impressive savings in time and fuel costs - and has helped reduce emissions.

In applying the A-CDM concept, there are clear accountability rules: all stakeholders share common, date-stamped data for each flight (landing time, in-/off block time, take-off time, for example). Having well-defined responsibilities for these date-stamps creates a virtuous circle in which fuller, more precise data are acquired and usefully distributed.

Wanting to know exactly what benefits were being procured, EUROCONTROL reviewed 17 CDM airports in depth. The airports welcomed the study and provided valuable insight; their willing cooperation was a vital element in the review.

A report on the findings has been published: the A-CDM Impact Assessment Final Review. The report also contains individual fact sheets on each of the 17 airports reviewed. These fact sheets give an operational overview and describe the airport’s own CDM process as well as the quantitative and qualitative benefits gained.

The results are impressive. Not only are CDM airports more operationally resilient but they have made substantial savings. Airlines at several CDM airports made tactical delay cost savings of close to €1 million in 2015.

Local benefits include:

  • average taxi-out time savings of between 0.25 and 3 minutes per departure;
  • average schedule adherence improvements between 0.5 and 2 minutes per flight;
  • reduction in push-back delays after start-up approval;
  • increased ATFM slot adherence in spite of increased traffic demand and larger volumes of ATFM regulation;
  • improved ground handling resource utilisation;
  • reduction in late stand and gate changes;
  • improved management of - and recovery from - disruption and adverse conditions;
  • reduction in Flight Activation Monitoring suspensions;
  • increased peak departure rates at the runway;
  • dramatically improved take-off time predictability - as much as 85% in adverse conditions.

Network benefits include:

  • improved take-off time accuracy and predictability;
  • reduction of en-route sector over-deliveries (particularly when fed by more than 60% of flights from CDM or advanced tower airports);
  • an average ATFM delay reduction of three minutes per regulation in restrictions in which 30% or more of flights originate from A-CDM airports;
  • a potential 3.5% increase of ECAC’s en-route capacity, once Europe’s 50 busiest airports become integrated into the network.


Assuming a full implementation cost of €2.5 million and annual maintenance costs of €150,000, the study has shown that, on average, A-CDM provides a return on investment after 18 months and a cost-benefit ratio of 7 over ten years. This represents savings to airlines only, not the financial benefits of other partners, which are more difficult to quantify. If these could be calculated, the cost-benefit ratio would be much higher.

Ground handling in particular benefits from good CDM; it allows ground handlers to have infinitely better asset utilisation and significantly improved punctuality. Future studies could focus on quantifying these aspects.

In short, the study proved that A-CDM is very good for airports - CDM airports are much more competitive than non-CDM ones - and very good for the ATM network.

The A-CDM Impact Assessment report proves that extending A-CDM to all airport processes, including passenger ones, is not only viable but the path to take in the future. The SESAR APOC (Airport Operations Centre) concept is developing this idea. Collaboration truly does make a sizeable difference when it comes to airports and the network!

A case study: London Heathrow

A-CDM at Heathrow is an excellent example of where operational transparency and open communication have changed behaviours and made for great savings. Improved adherence to procedures both in the Control Tower and by airline operators and ground handlers is evidence of a maturing culture in which off-block predictability is not just a service obligation, but a necessity for maximising runway utilisation and improving performance.

London Heathrow implemented A-CDM in 2013 and since then has seen take-off time accuracy improve from an average of 8.3 minutes to 30 seconds per flight. It also has vastly improved recovery rates in periods of disruption and can now let 60 aircraft depart with an average of 20 minutes sooner than it could prior to implementation.

British Airways has implemented a single engine taxi procedure that is based on the TTOT (Target Take-Off Time) which is delivered directly to the flight deck via ACARS (Aircraft Communications, Addressing and Reporting System) while the aircraft is at the stand. This saves several minutes of engine running time per flight and is estimated to have generated these savings (based on 2015 traffic levels) annually:

  • £2 million in fuel
  • 16,000 tonnes of CO2
  • 4,200 kg of SO2
  • 5,000 tonnes of fuel burn.

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