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Buenos Aires Airports Strategies Case Study


Air travel has progressively been considered the defining mode of transport in the 21st century because of its appeal, scale, and speed. Air transport has opened up the world by establishing connections to different geographical regions. The increasing demand for air travel underscores the importance of establishing airports that are operational and efficient. Some of the fundamental issues that airports should take into consideration entail the airports’ physical design and capacity management. This paper assesses the consequences of physical design and capacity limitations for an airport. Additionally, it also assesses the current situation of Buenos Aires that is served by two airports, namely Ezeiza-Ministro Pistarini [EZE] and Aeroparque-Jorge Newbery [AEP]. The paper further proposes a strategy for Buenos Aires as a city and its two airports.

The Consequences of Physical Design and Capacity Limitations of an Airport; Aeroparque-Jorge Newberry

Hissler (2011) asserts that airports will be the restricting bottleneck in air travel management. A report conducted by the Central Office of Delay Analysis [CODA] further emphasizes that airlines are associated with over 49% of delays while airports account for 18% of the stoppages (Hissler 2011). These findings show that the causes of flight delays are within human control. To resolve or minimize such occurrences, airport management authorities must appreciate the importance of physical design and capacity management.

Waters (2006) asserts that an airport’s capacity is determined by assessing the number of passengers who use a particular airport within a year. Different aspects such as the number of runways influence an airport’s capacity. Waters (2006, p. 395) affirms, ‘The number of runways limits the number of slots that are available for planes to land and take off’. Alternatively, an airport’s physical design comprises different aspects such as the number of runways, locality and length of the landing strips, taxiways, junctions, and the distance between the landing strips. Edwards (2005) confirms how an airport’s objective design is the principal component that specifies an airport’s capability. This observation highlights the correlation between airport capacity management and physical design. Stakeholders in the aviation industry must collaborate in improving the operating efficiency of the airports by focusing on aptitude management and objective design.

The AEP airport operates as a public/military landing field. It serves Buenos Aires City. Aeropuertos Argentinas 2000 manages the landing base. The airfield can be conveniently accessed due to its close location to Buenos Aires. The AEP acts as the hub for various domestic flights in addition to connecting flights to other border countries such as Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Some of the airlines that operate in the AEP airport include Austral Lineas Aereas, Gol Transportes Aereos, Sol Lineas Aereas, Aerolineas Argentinas, and LAN Argentina (CAPA Center for Aviation 2015). The airlines that operate in the AEP airport serve both permanent and recurrent destinations.

The number of passengers who use the AEP is expected to increase in the future due to the high rate of liberalization of the airline industry. The rise in demand for air travel presents a major challenge for AEP airport concerning capacity management. AEP airport might experience traffic congestion because of the increase in the number of passengers using the airport. Congestion might be worsened by the poor design of the airport’s landside. One of the aspects that indicate the poor landside design entails the location of the arrival and departure terminals. The two arrival and departure facilities are located on the same line/road. This situation, which might increase traffic jams in front of the airport, arises from the fact that airport landsides are subject to high and multiple peak times throughout the day. If the physical design of the airport’s landside is not improved, the congestion might lead to an increment in incidents of delays for passengers who leave or access the different airport facilities. Subsequently, the level of positive passenger experience at the airport will deteriorate.

Under such circumstances, the airport management authority such as the air traffic controllers who manage flights that are destined for the AEP airport may be forced to delay some aircraft on the ground. This strategy may be adopted in the event of anticipated congestion at the AEP airport. Furthermore, the AEP airport management authority may be forced to undertake aircraft queuing for aircraft that plan to land at the airport.

Congestion within the airport might lead to a loss of operational inefficiency (Hall 2008). For example, the headway between aircraft landing at the AEP airport may be too short. Alternatively, the airport management authority may be required to allow two aircraft to be on an active runway simultaneously. This situation, which might reduce the safety of both the aircraft and the passengers, arises from the occurrence of safety faults. Edwards (2005) says that most airports that are located in urban areas and are unable to expand their runways and terminals are forced to reduce their safety margins to 2 minutes between landing and takeoff times. Such aspects might result in a decline in passenger confidence. Ryerson and Woodburn (2014) assert that airports’ management authorities are charged with the responsibility of ensuring optimal safety.

To avoid such consequences, Aeropuertos Argentinas 2000 must focus on improving the landside physical design. Amongst the aspects that should be considered entail the effective design of the roadway systems. Additional routes should be included to provide passengers’ ease in navigating in and out of the terminals, which act as the main exchange points of an airport.

Another aspect that the airport might consider in improving the terminals’ operational efficiency entails expanding them. However, airports that operate within cities such as the AEP face a major limitation in undertaking such expansion. Expanding the terminals will require adequate landing fields to enlarge the runways, which are in turn limited by the airport’s urban location. The likelihood of undertaking expansion on airport facilities such as runways and terminals is also limited by the fact that the airport is located close to the sea.

Also, the airport management authority might encounter bureaucracies in its quest to expand the airport facilities such as the terminals and runways due to the limitations of the available land. This case might hinder the airport’s quest to improve its physical design. The management team will be required to engage in extensive consultation with other stakeholders such as the urban authorities to assess how the airports can be improved without adversely affecting other parties. The ineffective physical design of the AEP airport is illustrated by the location of the airside close to the roadways and premises outside the airport. Furthermore, the runways, which are also close to the roads, might compromise safety within the airport.

The existence of competing interests of different parties such as investors with commercial interests influences the physical design of the airport negatively. For example, some stakeholders intend to establish restaurants inside or close to the airport facility. Over 400 hotels are established close to the AEP airport. Commercial activities within the airport’s terminals also involve the operation of cafes, snack bars, and shops. These facilities are not centralized. They are relatively small because of the small size of the airport. However, their location within the airport affects terminal expansion efforts. The motive of the hotel investors is to provide passengers using the AEP airport convenience in accessing catering and accommodation services. Considering the existence of constraints concerning the space available, the AEP might be forced to offer efficient services within a limited space.

The Current Situation of the City that has Two Airports: Ezeiza-Ministro Pistarini [EZE] and Aeroparque

Two main airports, namely Ezeiza-Ministro Pistarini [EZE] and Aeroparque-Jorge Newbery [AEP], serve Buenos Aires City in Argentina. The EZE airport serves international flights while AEP serves domestic and local flights. The airports are a critical component of the city’s transport system. Different airlines ferry passengers to the two airports. However, some of the airlines that operate at the two airports include Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN Argentina. Both airports account for 75% of the country’s air traffic. It is estimated that each of the airports serves over 4 million passengers annually. The airports are undergoing capital improvements and privatization. Thus, it is projected that their capacity will increase to 12 million passengers over the next decade. Over the past years, the AEP has experienced a challenge due to the increase in demand for air travel. Currently, the airport serves over 25% of the total Argentine air traffic. Table 1 and Graph 1 show a considerable increase in the number of passengers who use AEP airport.

Year Passengers
2010 7,558,148
2011 8,250,971
2012 8,849,465
2013 9,552,504

Table 1.

Change in passengers at AEP airport
Graph 1. Change in passengers at AEP airport.
Year Percentage change
2010 17.20%
2011 9.20%
2012 7.30%
2013 8.00%

Table 2: Percentage Change in the Number of Passengers.

The EZE is ranked as the largest international airport in Buenos Aires. The airport serves airlines from and/or to different destinations across the world. The chart below illustrates the destinations that EZE serves.

Region Destination Airline
Africa Cape Town and Johannesburg Malaysia Airlines and South Africa Airways
Central America Punta Cana, Havana, and Panama City Lan Argentina, Cubana de Aviacion, and Copa Airlines
Asia Doha and Kuala Lumpur Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines
North America Atlanta, Mexico City, New York, Washington, and Dallas Delta Airlines, Aeromexico, American Airlines, and the United Airlines
Europe Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, and London Air France, Aerolineas Argentinas, Iberia, Lufthansa, and British Airways
Oceania Sydney and Auckland Aerolineas Argentina and Qantas
South America Guayaquil, Quito, Recife, Ushuaia, and Curitiba Lan Ecuador, Gol Linhas Aereas, and Tam Linhas Aereas.

Table 3: EZE Service Points.

The airport is very efficient in handling international flights. One of the main sources of EZE’s strength is its physical design. The landing field has three primary operating runways that can handle large passenger and international cargo flights. Furthermore, the airport is located approximately 35 kilometers outside Buenos Aires. This observation illustrates how the airport is strategically located to improve its accessibility [30 to 50 minutes drive from Buenos Aires City center]. Unlike EZE airport, the AEP airfield has a relatively low capacity. Thus, its ability to handle large international flights is limited. The length of the airport’s runway is relatively short. Therefore, only medium-sized and propeller planes can land at AEP airport. This situation highlights an ineffective physical design within the airport.

Despite the airfields’ effectiveness in connecting Buenos Aires regionally and globally, political forces might hinder their long-term operational efficiency. The Argentine government has established a concessional agreement with Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 [AA2000] stipulating how the airport should be managed. The agreement, which was enacted in 1998, is expected to last for 30 years. However, the treaty can be extended for an additional 10 years. Shareholding within AA2000 has changed considerably over the past few years. By the end of 2011, the shareholders included RIVA [1%], Milan Airport Operate SEA [10%], and Grupo Corporacion America [89%]. However, the Argentine government announced its intention to acquire a 15% stake in the company. The change of ownership structure might affect the airports’ operational efficiency due to political influence. For example, the modification of shareholding might affect concession, which is founded on the build-operate-transfer [BOT] basis (Brooks Events Limited 2015).

The existence of political influence might adversely affect the airport’s contribution to the country’s economy. The AEP and EZE are strategically located to improve the ability of the airlines that operate at the airports to connect different regions. Additionally, airports serve as a hub for several airlines. Thus, airports have a significant impact on the economic performance of airlines that operate at such airports. The airlines can establish diverse retail services such as hotels and conference facilities within the airport.

Strategy for Buenos Aires and its Airports

The increase in the number of passengers who prefer air travel indicates that the AEP and EZE airports in Buenos Aires will experience a challenge in managing capacity matters. Despite this situation, the two airports must serve passengers efficiently. To achieve this goal, the Argentine government in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders must consider several issues. Some of the fundamental aspects that should be taken into account are highlighted herein.

Managing Urban Crisis

Air travel in Buenos Aires is expected to become complex and highly profitable because of the establishment of different businesses such as hotels and other facilities. Edwards (2005) says that most airports that are located in urban areas lack a clear design and vision due to the existence of competing interests. Consequently, urban authorities tend to ignore the plan of adopting an effective urban design that takes into account the changing demands of the airports that are located within their regions. Therefore, airports that are situated in urban areas tend to grow in an unplanned and haphazard way. To deal with this challenge, the regulatory authorities at Buenos Aires should develop an effective urban design framework that defines how the airport should appear. Considering the unpredictability of the aviation industry, it is imperative for Buenos Aires in collaboration with the airports to incorporate airport designers, rather than only focusing on project managers and engineers in managing the airports.

Ignoring designers in managing airports reduces their operational efficiency (Edwards 2005). This challenge arises from the fact that some of the critical aspects such as passenger satisfaction and route eligibility are ignored. Authorities at Buenos Aires should be committed to improving its efficiency in landscape and urban design. Moreover, the authorities should adopt a long-term vision for the airport to cater to uncertainties that are associated with air travel.

Improving Legibility

Buenos Aires City should consider improving the airport experience. One of the ways through which this goal can be achieved entails making it easy for passengers to access the airport. Even though EZE and AEP airports are conveniently located within the city center, the authorities must consider improving the passengers’ experience. The routes that lead to the airport should be attractive to use. Some of the facilities that the airports should consider in improving legibility include the terminals. Such terminals should be spacious to provide passengers an opportunity to navigate to their plane conveniently.

Airside, Landside, and Terminal Capacity Balance

Landside provision to an airport significantly affects the airport’s operational efficiency. Furthermore, it can also compromise safety and/or increase delays. The size of runways normally influences an airport’s capacity. The airports should focus on improving the length, orientation, and the number of runways. To implement this strategy, airports and urban authorities should take into account environmental factors. They should ensure that the terminals’ capacity to process a large number of customers matches the runways’ ability to handle flight takeoff and landing. Thus, airports and urban authorities should establish a balance between the core processing components of the terminal building, airside, and landside. Edwards (2005, p. 13) confirms how ‘it is vital for the passenger throughput of the terminal to stay in balance with the processing capacity of the airfield and ground access components’.

Focusing on Growth

The ability of the EZE and AEP to handle the regional and international demand for air travel underscores the importance of promoting further growth. However, the location of the EZE and AEP airports in the urban areas presents a major challenge in undertaking airport expansion. Despite this issue, airports must improve their operational efficiency. This goal can be attained by focusing on the concept of inter-modality.

The large number of passengers who use the airports tends to increase pressure on the available facilities. The airports and urban authorities should collaborate in improving different airport facilities such as roads, catering, and parking facilities. Some of the aspects that the authorities should consider include establishing different modes of transport to and from the airport. The city should improve its rail and road systems to enhance accessibility. These elements will advance the passengers’ experience. However, airports must ensure that the developed rail and road systems are sustainable.

The growth of the airports can also be improved by implementing new technologies. The airports should consider implementing the emerging technologies to enhance the efficiency with which aircrafts land and take off. The two airports should reduce the flight takeoff and arrival to less than three minutes. This approach will make it possible for an airport that has two runways to handle close to 100 flights within one hour. Achieving this goal will also require airports to integrate efficient people’s movement and baggage handling facilities. However, the airports need to ensure that any reduction in the turnaround duration does not compromise the airports’ safety and security. Over the years, the increasing security requirements in airports have reduced passenger convenience and experience. To prevent such occurrences, the airports and Buenos Aires authorities should continuously improve passenger handling. They should integrate remote passenger processing by establishing off-airport airline shopping structures. This aspect will facilitate passenger handling outside the airport.


Airports constitute a critical component in a country’s economy due to its ability to promote the transportation of people, goods, and services. Airports must be strategically located and equipped with the necessary facilities. This strategy will improve their ability to establish connections within and without a country. Moreover, issues such as physical design and capacity management within the airport are vital in determining an airport’s operational efficiency. Airports that are located in urban areas such as Ezeiza-Ministro Pistarini [EZE] and Aeroparque-Jorge Newbery [AEP] in Argentina face different challenges. The two airports are located close to Buenos Aires. However, the AEP handles regional and domestic flights while EZE handles intercontinental flights. Additionally, EZE’s capacity is relatively strong compared to that of the AEP. For example, EZE has three runways that improve its ability to handle large aircraft. On the other hand, AEP has only one runway.

One of the major challenges that the airports face relates to the limitations of expanding because of their urban location. Despite this issue, the airports management authorities should consider improving the airfields’ physical design and capacity management. The authorities should collaborate with urban stakeholders in undertaking the airports’ physical design. Moreover, the airports should consider investing in improving the facilities such as terminal buildings, parking, and roads. These elements will focus on improving the passengers’ experience. Consequently, the likelihood of continued usage of the airports will be improved considerably. Also, airports should consider investing in new technologies to enhance their ability to handle different aspects such as baggage handling, security, and safety.


Brooks Events Limited 2015,. Web.

CAPA Center for Aviation 2015,. Web.

Edwards, B 2005, The modern airport terminal; new approaches to airport architecture, Taylor & Francis, New York, NY.

Hall, J 2008, Analysis of aircraft overruns and undershoots for runway safety areas, Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC.

Haussler, S 2011, Conditions for an airport operator to make use of an advanced surface movement guidance and control systems, GRIN Verlag, Munchen.

Ryerson, M & Woodburn, A 2014, ‘Building airport capacity of manage flight demand? How regional planners can lead American aviation into a new frontier of demand management’, Journal of American Planning Association, vol. 80, no. 2, pp. 138-152.

Waters, D 2006, Operations strategy, London Thomson Learning, London.

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