Vancouver Airport Case Study - Optimizing Airport Processes

Saved over $100,000,000

See how World Airport award winner, Vancouver Airport, saved over $100 million using Simio!

The Company


As the second busiest airport in Canada, Vancouver International Airport (YVR)has daily non-stop flights throughout North America, Europe, Oceania and Asia. In 2014, there were over 310.000 take offs and 19, 360,000 visitors. Vancouver has won the Skytrax Best North American Airport Award on multiple occasions and in 2013 and 2014, they were the only airport to be in the top ten airports in North America.

Key Drivers

The following Vancouver Airport Authority corporate values were the key drivers at the heart of this project:

  • Collaboration and Teamwork - The Airport Authority sought input and ideas from appropriate stakeholders over the years. These include customs officials, security screeners, baggage handlers, and of course airline carriers. YVR recognized the importance in obtaining “buy-in” from all stakeholders, both internal and external, in order to make this project successful.
  • Creativity - Alternative solutions were sought in order to improve upon the status quo. The airport business is constantly changing due to market demand, and adapting to it is the key in maintaining an excellent reputation. Striving for originality and creativity, issues were analyzed, technology was leveraged, and most importantly stakeholders have shown adaptability in managing change.
  • Accountability - A commitment to achieving results by optimizing airport operations was stated from the beginning. Allowing stakeholders to take ownership of various aspect of the project leads to a natural path of self-motivation. Accordingly, stakeholder feedback was engaged in order to establish trust, build realistic expectations, manage execution of the project, and of course provide the ability to make sound decisions. Performance measures and targets were also published in the corporate business plan. These serve as targets by which the simulation results are measured.
  • Passion for Results - All stakeholders shared a common desire and passion to achieving results. At stake is the profitability of the business while maintaining or improving service levels at world-class levels. Successful projects rarely occur by accident and without a great deal of passion. Rather, passion is the fuel that motivates one to keep striving for solutions to a problem.

The Approach

Simio modeling software was used to create the model, while Excel along with VBA automation was used for reporting the results. AutoCAD drawings of the various termination levels were imported into Simio as bitmap images to provide working backgrounds for the model. Images were then scaled and calibrated appropriately in order for walking distances to be accurately calculated.

Key processes such as check-in, security screening, customs declaration, and baggage claim were modeled for all arriving and departing flights. Simulation results were rated against performance targets established in the annual Vancouver Airport Authority Business Plan. These results allow management to track its business plan progress against a number of measurable targets.

The Results

While the Vancouver Airport simulation model was quite complexed and took time to build, it provided invaluable insight in the planning and operating of their terminals. When decided to build new terminals or to expand new ones, simulation models, like Vancouver Airport’s, can determine the capacity requirements and provide guidance in scoping a project.

Vancouver Quote

In situations where increased capacity is required, simulation models can be used to re-engineer processes in order to make them more efficient. In such cases, the refining of airport processes can lead to millions of dollars in savings as a result of deferred capital costs. One such example at Vancouver Airport has been the introduction of kiosks for the customs declaration of returning residents. The problem facing the Vancouver Airport was the need for more capacity in the customs hall. This problem was initially leading them down the path to expand the terminal, which would have created a ripple effect throughout the airport, including the relocation of aircraft gates. With the aid of their Simio Simulation Model, Vancouver was able to see that the simple introduction of kiosks for the customs declaration of returning residents was all they needed to increase their capacity and reduce strain on the facility. Thus, saving them close to $100 million

Simulation models are not one time use tools, but instead, once created can be used over and over to help a company save money. Now that the Vancouver Airport has their entire operations modeled within Simio, they can easily use it to improve their day-to-day operations at the airport based on their established levels of service and save them time and money.”


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Case is taken from the paper Modeling Passenger and Baggage Flow at Vancouver Airport by Mike Lazzaroni