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Development of a Prototype Air Passenger Survey Database


Air passenger surveys are performed periodically by airport authorities, regional planning agencies, state aviation agencies, and other organizations. These surveys provide detailed information on a wide range of air traveler characteristics that can be obtained in no other way, including trip purpose, ground origins and final destinations, demographics, and airport ground access and egress modes. The resulting information can be of great value in better understanding the demand for air travel and factors that influence travel choices, including airport choice and decisions to use alternate travel modes to air. The results of such surveys are also widely used by airports for planning terminal facilities and by airports and regional and state transportation planning agencies for airport ground access planning and regional transportation planning, including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and other air quality emissions, and multimodal transportation studies. However, unlike the air passenger statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation by the airlines, there is currently no centralized database that integrates the information obtained from the many air passenger surveys performed each year. Indeed, there is no database that tracks which surveys have been performed and what information they have collected. While each survey sponsor has access to the data collected in the surveys that it has performed, it is difficult to correlate this information with that collected by other agencies. This reduces the value of the data for airport benchmarking, as well as limiting the ability to study the effectiveness of different survey techniques, question wording, and use of the resulting survey data. Previous research into the information available from air passenger surveys has identified the need to develop a centralized, web-based database that will track which surveys have been performed, provide key information about those surveys, and appropriate contact information to enable interested agencies and researchers to obtain more information about each survey. To the extent that survey sponsors are willing to make the survey findings more widely available (some already post survey reports on their websites), the proposed database could include the survey results. Prior research for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has defined a proposed structure for such a database. However, further research is required to assemble information to populate such a database, implement a prototype database to validate the proposed structure and identify practical issues involved in maintaining the database, and develop an estimate of the resources required to extend and maintain the database on an ongoing basis.


The proposed research would achieve two objectives. The first would be the development of a national resource of information on air traveler characteristics that is available from air passenger surveys undertaken by a wide range of organizations. The second would be to establish a prototype web-based database to facilitate access to this information and identify the resources required to maintain a national database of air passenger survey information on an ongoing basis.

Related Research:

A recent research project for the FAA by the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research1

Subsequently, ACRP Project 03-04 Guidebook for Airport User Survey Methodology undertook a second survey of potential sponsors of air passenger surveys and assembled additional information on experience with air passenger surveys, including survey methodology and cost. The findings of these two research projects provide a valuable starting point for the proposed project. In turn, the availability of the information envisaged in the proposed database would enhance the value of the guidance available in the Guidebook prepared as part of ACRP 03-04, by allowing potential survey sponsors to compare the approaches undertaken in different surveys.

collected information on air passenger surveys undertaken by a wide range of organizations and studied the feasibility of establishing a national database of air passenger survey information. The research developed a proposed structure for a prototype database and explored potential institutional arrangements for maintaining a national database on an ongoing basis. The design of the proposed structure for the database specifically addressed the issues involved in analyzing data from multiple surveys that used different survey questions and wording.

A number of other ACRP projects currently in progress or nearing completion demonstrate the need for the type of information envisaged for the proposed database, including ACRP Project 03-10 Innovative Approaches to Addressing Aviation Capacity Issues in Coastal Mega-Regions and ACRP Project 10-02 Planning Guide for Offsite Terminals. Although of course the proposed database will not be operational in time to help those projects directly, the type of analysis likely to be recommended by both projects could make extensive use of more widely available data from air passenger surveys. A new ACRP research project that is about to start, ACRP Project 01-13 will develop an airport performance benchmarking database. Although the focus of the benchmarking database is different from the proposed air passenger survey database, many of the issues involved in developing and maintaining the proposed database are similar. In addition, the data assembled by the proposed project could be of use in applying the information in the benchmarking database.

Sponsoring Committee:AV020, Aviation System Planning
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Date Posted:12/13/2015
Date Modified:03/09/2016
Index Terms:Travel surveys, Airport operations, Mode choice, Airlines, Passengers, Airport terminals, Greenhouse gases, Air quality management,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Planning and Forecasting
Passenger Transportation

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