In 2018, Finavia, the company that controls all 21 airports in Finland, employed the global hybrid organization, Reaktor, and advisory firm, Fourkind, to assess Kittila, an airport in Lapland, Finland. The place was struggling with congested departure gates and dissatisfied travellers.
The airport was battling to keep up with the influx of passengers coming through in winter. As it isn’t a particularly large airport, there were difficulties attempting to fit excess planes into just a dozen parking spaces. Volatile weather and other interferences made it challenging to assuage the delay issues.
“Adding more resources would not make any sense since, outside the holiday season, the airport only receives one or two flights a day,” said project lead from Finavia, Henri Lehtonen.
Finavia, Reaktor, and Fourkind collaborated to create a parking solution for the planes. The groundbreaking automatic parking system is connected to almost every part of the airport’s functionality, including finding bus routes, dictating landing permissions, and assigning check-in counters. The AI process establishes an optimized plan according to relevant flight information whilst abiding to specific regulations.
“We learned that by formulating all objectives and restrictions related to the aircraft parking problem mathematically, we can find the unique best parking plan among the billions and billions of alternatives very efficiently by utilizing a tailored optimization algorithm. There is a lot of uncertainty related to the airport operations but predictive modelling is the correct way to incorporate that into the optimization process,” said Fourkind’s Maria Pusa.
Does the system work?
The outcome of the program was highly successful. It was implemented in December last year and managed to decrease the amount of airport-influenced flight delays by more than 60 percent. Delay time was also dropped by around 66 percent, much to the satisfaction of over 120,000 travellers. Also, because the planes didn’t have to perform excess movement circling the airport before a parking space opened up, less carbon emissions entered the atmosphere.
“The system brings a great deal of efficiency and robustness to Kittila’s operations. When the conditions change unexpectedly and render the current plan redundant, you can simply produce a new one with a click of a button,” says Lehtonen.
“To realize the model’s full potential, we designed a tool which truly complements the flight control experts’ daily work,” Reaktor’s Edward Landtman explains. “At a small airport like Kittila, the stand allocation happens from a car on the airfield, meaning the tool needed to be custom designed for fully portable work. By visualizing the optimized plan for the day, yet still providing the tools for reacting to changes and making manual overrides, the flight control experts are free to focus on making sure everything runs smoothly during the busy holiday seasons”.