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An Operational “Dress Rehearsal” to Ensure a Successful Airport Concourse Opening

Operational Readiness and Airport Transition (ORAT) is a series of processes where checks and balances are put in place to influence a project from an operational and functional standpoint and to identify and mitigate risks in a project before operational

One of the challenges airports have experienced in successfully opening new facilities has been the lack of adequate testing and remediation ahead of opening to ensure the people, equipment, systems and facilities are operationally ready. Operational Readiness and Airport Transition (ORAT) is a series of processes where checks and balances are put in place to identify and mitigate risks in a new or expanded facility before operational impacts can occur. If used from the start of a project, ORAT can even influence and improve final design from an operational perspective.

The new $1.6 billionaddition of the West Gates Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), connected by a pedestrian tunnel and utility tunnel. This concourse serves both domestic and international flights and houses concessions, airline clubs, state-of-the-art technologies, guest services and other amenities.

In advance of the spring 2021 opening of the West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal, Jacobs supported an integrated operational trial to ensure that all facilities, systems and equipment were operationally ready; the processes were defined, and the staff were knowledgeable and capable. This “dress rehearsal” was designed to identify areas of improvement in time to implement remediation measures prior to opening.

On the day of the trial, a group of volunteer “passengers” were provided with scripts, timelines and directions. They moved through the concourse playing out various scenarios, conducting trials to validate processes including:

  • Security process
  • Boarding process
  • Arrival/baggage process
  • Bus operations
  • Elevator operations
  • Wheelchair readiness
  • Wayfinding/signage effectiveness
  • Guest services/information availability

At the conclusion of the trial, staff met with various participating agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of tested processes and operations.

Though ORAT is common in other parts of the world and in other industries, it is leveraged less frequently among U.S. airports. If engaged early in the planning and design phases of a project, ORAT can aid in lifecycle cost assessment and can help avoid costly change orders both during construction and after operations commence. Jacobs is the ORAT advisor to Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and our team has guided the development of their Airport Operational Readiness (AOR) Division which encompasses ORAT professionals from Jacobs and internal airport staff from multiple departments. 

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