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Examine the many micro operations and their activities in Brussels airport.

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Operations Management                August 2004


The aim of this assignment is to examine the many micro operations and their activities in Brussels airport, and to try to understand the effects and implications these interdependent organisations have on the Operations Director (OD) for Brussels International Airport Company (BIAC), the operating company for Brussels airport


Brussels airport is complex operation, with many functions operating at the same time. There are many different multi cultural organisations and employers under one roof, all focusing on the customer, whether it is external or internal. Their customers include, not only the people that visit the airport for travel, but also the individual airlines, retailers, aircrew, ATC, ground handling staff and fuel providers. The airport in it self is also a customer to builders, for example. Below is a list of the many public and private sector organisations, which operate within the airport.

Micro operations


  • Retailers/Concessions – Shops, restaurants, cafés, bars, banks etc
  • Ancillary services – Trains, busses, coaches, taxis, parking, car rentals etc.
  • Hotels
  • Contractors – Builders, cleaners etc
  • Airport operations - Public Relation, Environmental management, Noise pollution etc


  • Air Traffic Control
  • Ground handling – Baggage handling, Check-In, Dispatchers, Re-fuelling, Special passenger care, Departure gate control etc.
  • Security – Airport police, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation),
  • Emergency services – First Aid, Fire service, Runway maintenance (snow clearing, de-icing etc)
  • Government – Passport control, Customs, Immigration, Federal police, Directorate General of Aviation etc
  • Airlines – Pilots, cabin crew, check-in, sales, maintenance, Flight information etc.
  • Fuel providers
  • Catering suppliers
  • Airport operations – Facilities management, Customer Service etc
  • Central Databank – Storage of information
  • Flight information – Displays, Internet etc
  • Air Freight - Warehousing

Each of these operations or processes has their inputs and outputs[1]. Take, for example, a restaurant in the departure area. Its inputs are things like, raw materials, equipment and skills, the transformations include cooking and presenting. The outputs are various dishes that have value to customers. Due to the nature of an airport, there are many different types of transformation processes in Brussels[2].


There are four main processes in Brussels airport. They are listed below:

  • ATC – Relaying information between ground and air, to ensure that aircrafts flying, landing and taking off are safely separated.
  • Check In – Checking in travellers and their baggage, ensuring that they are on the right terminal, gate and flight.
  • Baggage and freight handling – Transporting customers baggage to the right flight on time.
  • Information/Communication – Communicating flight information to customers in and outside the operation. Can be argue that communicating is  not a process, but in this case, gathering, relaying and displaying flight information to customers in a time, I would argue that it is a process.  

The relationship between them is illustrated below. Note that the ATC are relaying information to the Information/Communication process, but there is no information going the other way. In all the other processes ATC needs updated information. For example, ATC needs to know when the Check In and Baggage Handling processes are completed, so that they can start their process of take off.



Strategic Objectives

The Operations Director must understand the purpose of the airport. He, or she, must develop its vision and mission, in order to make the operation achieve the organisations long term goals and strategic objectives. It will be the OD’s responsibility to translate these objectives into implications for the operations performance objectives – quality, speed, dependability, flexibility and cost[3].

  • Quality – “To do things right”. Not only does it lead to external customer satisfaction, but equally important is keeping the internal customers satisfied. It will also lead to a reduction in cost, due to less spending on correction of mistakes. In an airport this could mean clean and tidy facilities, flight information easily available, easy access for disabled customers, easy to find terminals, check-ins and arrivals and departures.  
  • Speed – “How long customers have to wait for their goods or service?” The layout of the airport should make it easy for the customer to access whatever part they are concerned with. Well set up procedures will reduce decision making time. Efficient and helpful customer service staff, accessibility for service vehicles, timely flight information and air traffic control among other things would be important for an airport.
  • Dependability – “Doing thing in time for customers to receive their goods or service”. The OD will have the task of managing and controlling the micro operations so they deliver their goods or services in time. Having so many different vital operations to control makes it more important for them all to deliver on time due to the “snowball effect” lateness would have on the macro operation.
  • Flexibility – “Being able to change operation”. Increased volume of customers, introduction of new services, expansion of the airport and new regulations.
  • Cost – “The cost incurred by the operation” All of the above performance objective affect cost. Quality by not wasting time and effort, speed by higher turnover of customers and lower administrative overheads, dependability by eliminating disruption and flexibility by adapting to changing circumstances without wasting time and capacity. For example, an intensive cost-cutting policy have been pursued in the areas that come under the competence of the Facilities and Maintenance division of the airport[4].

This is made more difficult, due to the fact that most micro-operations are independent, meaning that the OD has very limited control over them.


The airport has to be designed in such a way so to support its purpose. The physical shape and each part of the airport – terminals, check-ins, runways and retailers, for example – must be carefully designed to fulfil its current role, but also to meet with the demands of its future role. The layout of Brussels airport could be said to be by process[5], where levels 0 and 1 are for trains and busses, 2 is arrivals, 3 is for departures and level 4 is for restaurants and shops. However, throughout the transit area there are micro operations like shops, restaurants, airlines and services. They are generally laid out in clusters at the points where the customers flow, but can be found all around the airport. This reducescongestion, excessive backtracking and bottle necks and increases control.


The operations in an airport are dynamic systems. The inputs, processes and the outputs are all liable to change over time[6]. The demand changes according to seasons and will need to be forecasted, and in the aftermath of September 11, air travel and the security processes in an airport has change dramatically. It is the role of the Operations Director to make sure that these changes are planned and controlled for, or at least to have a certain degree of flexibility so that changes, like September 11, will be a smooth as possible. Examples could be the need to plan for expansion of airport capacity, need to provide accessibility and support economic development in key areas, and need to minimise environmental damage to neighbouring communities. The planning needs to be[7]:

  • Strategic – Long range, like location of airport.
  • Tactical – Producing goods and services within the strategic plan.
  • Operational – Day to day procedures.
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Number of complaints

Customer satisfaction score

Complaints in relation to number of airport visitors


Customer service query time

Time from check in to loading of baggage

Travellers processed through security

Travellers checked in


Number of delayed flights

Schedule adherence

Consistency of service


Time needed to increase number of internal customers

Range of services



Variance against budget

Utilisation of resources

Labour productivity


Each area would give the OD a perspective of the performance of the operation, which would be useful to identify areas of improvement, or to monitor to extent of improvement[9].

Total Quality Management

Despite its name, TQM is concerned with all aspects of operations performance[10] (See above). It is as much a philosophy, as it is a set of quality and management tools aimed at increasing business and reducing losses due to wasteful practices.  It incorporates all areas and employees in the operation. It meets the needs of the airports customers, both internal and external. It develops systems and procedures which supports improvements and the continuous process of improvement. TQM is closely linked to the mission statement[11] of the operating company of Brussels airport, which makes it important in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation[12]. Processes must be managed and improved.  This involves:

  • Defining the process
  • Measuring process performance (metrics)
  • Reviewing process performance
  • Identifying process shortcomings
  • Analysing process problems
  • Making a process change
  • Measuring the effects of the process change
  • Communicating both ways between manager and user
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Fire service





Fuel providers

Air freight









Flight Info




Customer Service



First Aid

Noise pollution



Passport control





Check in

Appendix II

Facilities layout of Brussels Airport

image02.png Transit Area (passengers only)
image03.png Bars & Restaurants
image04.png Shops
image05.png Services
image06.png Tickets and Airlines
image07.png Airlines - Lounges

Appendix III

The EFQM Excellence Model[16]



Christian Berglund

Student No: 18424203

[1] Dilworth, James B. “Operations Management, Providing Value in Goods and Services” 3rd Edition. Dryden Press 2000

[2] See appendix I

[3] Slack, Nigel. Chambers, Stuart. Johnston, Robert. “Operations Management” Financial Times Prntice-Hall 3rd Edition 2001

[4] BIAC Annual Report 2003. http://www.brusselsairport.be/biac/

[5] See appendix II

[6] Galloway, Les. Rowbotham, Frank. Azhashemi, Masud. “Operations Management in Context” Butterworth-Heinemann 2001

[7] Davis, Mark M. Aquilano, Nicholas J. Chase, Richard B. “Fundamentals of Operations Management” 4th Edition. McGraw-Hill/Irwin 2003

[8] Slack, Nigel. Chambers, Stuart. Johnston, Robert. “Operations Management” Financial Times Prntice-Hall 3rd Edition 2001

[9] Slack, Nigel. Chambers, Stuart. Johnston, Robert. “Operations Management” Financial Times Prntice-Hall 3rd Edition 2001

[10] James, Paul. “Total Quality Management, An Introductory Text” Prentice Hall 1996

[11]BIAC's mission is “to provide to its customers lasting and sustainable high-quality airport services while creating long-term profitability in line with the market”.

[12] Ho, Samuel K M. “Operations and Quality Management” Thompson Business Press 1999

[13] BIAC Annual Report 2003. http://www.brusselsairport.be/biac/

[14] See appendix III

[15] http://www.efqm.org

[16] The National Probation Directorate http://knivblak01.uuhost.uk.uu.net/documents/eemguideSe68pp.pdf

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