In December 2022, unprecedented weather conditions impacted tens of millions of travellers across North America. With these extreme weather events happening more frequently, operational performance vulnerabilities of organisations can be exposed. To meet the needs of customers more effectively, organisations need to be better prepared for unpredictable, fast changing conditions. 

At Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the winter storms led to the cancellation and delay of more than 1,300 flights and disrupted the travel plans of over 180,000 passengers. After the storms, YVR partnered with Arup to lead an After-Action Review, supported by Airports Council International (ACI), to identify the root cause of the disruption and develop an action plan to stop it happening again.

A cross-disciplinary team of Arup experts investigated the events and developed a plan to enable YVR to deal with sudden operational disruptions, maintain safety, and improve the experience of passengers and airport workers.

Evaluating the impact with ORAT

Experts from Arup’s Operational Readiness Activation & Transition (ORAT) service, working alongside our Aviation Planning, Risk & Resilience, and Specialist Technology, Analysis and Research teams, carried out an extensive review of YVR’s situation and delivered the YVR Report & Action Plan: December 2022 Travel Disruption. Our detailed review identified the regulations, policies, plans, procedures, and directives applicable to the event, determined the performance and service level of staff, and analysed what worked, what didn’t, and why.

The resulting action plan ensures YVR can reliably deliver the services expected by passengers in all operating conditions. Our review found that a combination of complex factors, along with the existing operational challenges of a busy travel period, led to cascading disruption. Tarmac delays, terminal congestion, baggage handling delays and ineffective public communications all contributed to the challenges experienced by the airport.

Our partnership helped YVR highlight actions that would mitigate future issues, be transparent to employees and customers, and improve existing systems.

A path forward

Arup developed a practical roadmap with definitive actions to improve performance. YVR chose the following five actions to implement: 

  1. Enhance winter and irregular operations plan
  2. Enhance cross-team collaboration
  3. Accelerate investments in technology and data
  4. Enhance in-terminal passenger support
  5. Enhance communication strategies

By addressing root causes, the airport is now better prepared to deliver the expected passenger experience, even  through extreme weather events and travel disruption. 

Solutions and support for the aviation industry 

With Arup’s help, YVR delivered the action plan to stakeholders quickly and efficiently. 

When ineffective planning leads to performance failures and poor customer service for organisations like YVR, Arup’s ORAT expertise leads to resilience in the face of operational challenges.