After Action Report
Section I - Functional Overview and Analysis
Airport Operations for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games were based out of three (3) airports by the conclusion of the Games: our primary airport being Boise Airport (BOI), our secondary being Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), and our tertiary (and involuntary airport) being Idaho Falls Airport (IDA). As the Airport Ops contact, I also worked as a liaison to the airport operations staff, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the various airline management teams.
Analysis: The working relationship with the airport operations team and TSA was essential to the success of our airport operations for the 2009 Games. Meeting with these groups on a regular basis for several months prior to the arrival period allowed for the establishment of contingency plans and a support structure of staff and volunteers to cover the very busy period that is “arrivals”.
Airport operations were extended to multiple airports due to the fact that BOI is not large and has no international travel capabilities. Allowing access to SLC was an option to save on travel cost for less affluent delegations and to alleviate the strain on the resources of Boise Airport. An unforeseen problem was a lack of familiarity with the State of Idaho, which lead several teams from the Middle East to book tickets into Idaho Falls Airport, and therefore forced us to include a third airport into our operations plan at the last minute.
Analysis: While this strategy definitely helped to ensure operations at BOI ran smoothly, it created enough different challenges (both foreseen and surprising) that I would recommend limiting primary arrival and departure operations to one airport in the future. If multiple airports are going to be utilized (in say… the Greek Isles), I would recommend having all initial arrivals into the country at the primary airport and then use this primary site to control distribution to and from the various other airports that will be utilized. It is imperative to have staff members (not just volunteers) available on-site to assist with challenges, changes, and problems at every airport.
Airport Operations was designed primarily to provide service to the delegations as they arrived into the Games arena, however limited services were also provided to the All-Star Fans, Officials, MVP Fans, and Family Members.
For delegations, the GOC and the airport staff had a simple yet effective plan in place to ensure rapid transition from arrival at the airport to the Delegation Welcome Center. The delegations began their preparation for arrival when they received the official Games Luggage Tags that were to be placed on the delegates’ luggage and gear. Delegations Every delegation was met at the gate airport and Games staff and the Delegation Assistant Liaison to help with language support, provide luggage support was provided by the National Guard who took control of luggage marked with the official Games Luggage Tags, buses and other methods of transportation were coordinated with the arrival information provided by the delegations, the staff on-site, and a multitude of volunteers were available to assist in crowd control and to answer questions for those arriving delegations with questions or problems. By communicating with Delegation Services, we were able to inform the delegations of our airport plans and incorporate members of their support staff to help ensure the smooth arrival to and departure from the airport. Primarily, we relied upon these support staff to work as “equipment managers” who were familiar with all the luggage and gear that the teams traveled with to assist the National Guard in ensuring all was accounted-for and loaded-onto the box trucks to stay with the teams. Once luggage was identified, teams were loaded onto their waiting transportation by volunteers and Games staff members for transport to the Delegation Welcome Center.
Analysis: When the information provided by the delegations regarding their flight information was accurate, the process we set into place was excellent. The coordination between me, the airport staff, our volunteers, the National Guard, and Delegation Services proved extremely helpful in preparation for arriving flights and trouble-shooting for early or delayed delegations. The luggage tags also proved to be a very effective means of identifying Games gear/luggage, and made the moving of luggage from the airport much easier. Having the delegates greeted at the gate cemented the relationship between DAL and delegation, and as the DALs were also allowed through security for departures, it helped reduce confusion and difficulties often times faced with a language barrier which was appreciated by all parties involved. Having a staff member on site that worked directly with the bus drivers who coordinated fitting all teams onto buses and other means of transport also helped to alleviate challenges and delays in leaving the airport.
IMPORTANT: In the future, be sure that rather than just asking delegations to share with us of their flight information, it is imperative that delegations send a copy of their flight itineraries. Create and establish an air-travel hotline and e-mail address as soon as planning begins in order to keep the arrival and departure information current and accurate. Without this direct access to the flight itineraries, the information available becomes confused, inaccurate, and untraceable. Get the itineraries, period.
The All-Star Fans were greeted at their arrival gate by volunteers coordinated and recruited by the CE Group and SOI. They were assisted with their luggage and directed to their motor pool transportation.
Analysis: Based on recommendations from the airport staff, I would suggest not having these All-Star Fans greeted at the gate. Considering the last minute nature of these guests and their unwillingness to commit to schedules until just before the event, it places too much stress on the staff to escort all these greeters through security for one person at a time based on last-minute information.
Officials were provided with motor pool transportation based on the flight information provided by the Sports Department.
MVP Fans and family members were not provided with transportation or luggage assistance by the GOC from the airport; however we did maintain information desks staffed with volunteers specific to each group that provided these people with local transportation options from taxis to hotel shuttles as well as answering any initial questions.
Analysis: These three groups seemed to experience very few problems. I thought they were organized and ran very well.
Departures were more of a challenge for our airport than arrivals as we were limited to the amount of luggage and gear that would fit the equipment flying out of Boise. Delegations were delivered to the airport along with their luggage, where the National Guard assisted with unloading the buses. The delegates themselves were responsible for carrying in their luggage for check-in (per TSA requirements). By setting up a table in the airport and keeping it staffed from several hours before the first flights departed, we were able to ensure that delegations arrived at the airport with ample time to catch their flights and to work with the airlines in the event of confusion or problems with flights. It also allowed a final point for delegations to return their Games phones, etc.
Analysis: Although it was exhausting at this stage of the Games to maintain a staff presence for these final days of departures, it proved to be extremely helpful to both the airport and the delegations. Having somebody on-site to deal with transportation issues was very helpful and important, especially considering how many delegations were spread throughout many different hotels in the valley. Airport Ops worked closely with Delegation Services and the HODs to communicate luggage and weight restrictions prior to their departures. Airport security always poses a problem with large groups, but the more communication, the more simple the movement through security.
Once teams were through security, they were essentially on their own for the remainder of their travels. We maintained our communication with the airport staff until the last flight with delegates departed Boise in order to ensure we were prepared in the event of any emergency, but the teams came well prepared for international travel and we experienced few problems outside of delayed flights.
Section II – Schedules, Timelines, and Events… Oh MyDate(s) / Event
September 2008 – February 2009 / Monthly Airport Ops Meetings
24 January 2009 / Volunteer On-Site Training
30 January 2009 / Venue Load-In
30 January – 6 February / Airport Arrival Operations
13 February – 16 February / Airport Departure Operations
16 February 2009 / Venue Load-Out
23 February 2009 / Group Debriefing
Beginning in September of 2008 and continuing through the end of January 2009, we began monthly meetings that became more frequent as the event approached. The Transportation Security Administration, the GOC, airport operations staff, National Guard representatives, Federal Air Marshalls, airline representatives, FBI, Customs, Public Safety, and several other groups that made appearances, were present and received copies of the minutes for these meetings to help establish and maintain working relationships for the operational period of the games.
Volunteer Training for airport volunteers was conducted on 24 January 2009.
Venue load-in was conducted on 30 January 2009.
Arrival Operations began on 30 January 2009, with the arrival of our first team in Boise. Arrival operations continued through 6 February 2009, with the conclusion of arrivals into Boise prior to the beginning of the Games.
Departure Operations began on 13 February 2009 and concluded on 16 February 2009 with the final team departures from Boise.
Venue load-out was conducted on 16 February 2009 following the departure of the final team.
A final group debriefing was held on 23 February 2009.
Section III – Integration and Staffing
As manager of Airport Operations, I reported directly to the Vice President of Delegation Services, Wade Morehead. Prior to the games, my primary role was to gather travel information Delegation Services and relaying this information to the transportation, accommodations, and logistics teams for construction of arrival schedules for each group. This arrival and departure information was integrated into the DCAS to be made available to all other groups. During operations, the role transformed into the relaying of information to Transportation, Delegation Services, and Main Area Command to confirm arrivals or inform of delays or changes.
This area relied up information and upon the sharing of it with many other groups. To maintain operations while communicating with so many groups, I used the following staffing plan:
While this was the official org chart, I want to stress how everybody worked as a team and helped out in every way possible. The airport operations staff also became an integral part of the structure as we worked with them every step of the way.
The assistant airport ops manager helped immensely by establishing himself as a contact for the bus drivers and working very closely with them to ensure that we had enough seats for all of our delegates as they arrived in Boise. This role was essential to our success at the airport as it helped with problem solving as teams arrived either early or late throughout the operations period.
With the volunteer commissioners, I was working with two excellent gentlemen. One took responsibility for checking the status of flights and verifying arrival times for those flights on which we had correct information. The other worked with delegations to help coordinate groups as they prepared for loading ground transportation to the Delegation Welcome Center. Both of these roles were essential in being prepared for delegations before they even had access to their luggage and keeping the venue from becoming over-crowded or delaying teams for very long.
The remainder of the volunteers helped with crowd control and the initial greeting of teams as they crossed the security gate into Boise. There was always a crowd there to cheer and welcome the delegations to the Games and Idaho. It was a very exciting experience for the athletes and a rewarding experience for the volunteers and members of the community who took part.
An integral part of our plan was that all delegations would travel to the Delegation Welcome Center from the airport. Therefore communication from the airport team and Delegation Services became fairly constant as we informed them of the teams arriving and departing for arrival at their venue. Lots of phone calls kept surprises to a minimum, and any early arrivals or changes were communicated to Main Area Command and the accommodations crew to ensure that we had beds for all groups that were in Boise or to work with the Host Town program to alert host families of any changes to their delegation’s schedule.
Section IV – Policies and Procedures
The policies put forward regarding the arrival procedures for delegations, families, All-Star Fans, MVP Fans, and other groups were the primary policies and procedures communicated to the various functional areas within the GOC. As documented above, I believe that the groups were met with an excellent level of service.
Missing would be exact information regarding the flights for the delegations and the All-Star Fans as they require a considerable more amount of preparatory work prior to their arrivals. These policies and procedures will be in the documentation in Section VII.
All other policies and procedures were governed by the airport security requirements and are available at http://www.tsa.gov/ .
Section V – Budget
The airport had no operating budget; however allowances for more radio communication versus the mobile phone walkie-talkie function would make the relaying of information between the groups required much easier.
Section VI – Key Interfaces
As addressed multiple times above, the key groups on whom the airport operations depended upon were many.
- Boise Airport Operations Staff - assisted with escorting volunteers through security, organizing airport staff for greeting of delegations
- Public safety – (in particular Deb Drake) to assist with planning for the event that any of our delegates were injured or ill upon their arrival to the airport and working with the various law enforcement agencies to ensure all were “in the loop”.
- Transportation Security Administration – Essential to keeping security lanes staffed during our arrivals and departures and for verifying the legality/feasibility of our luggage plans
- Airline Managers – (in particular United Airlines) to communicate the size and scope of our event and to ensure that all customer desks were fully staffed early on the main arrival and departures days to alleviate crowds and keep the flow of traffic moving.
- Federal Air Marshalls – provided extra security at the airport during our heavy use days and helped with crowd control in the terminal.
- Delegation Services – Gathered all flight information from this group and worked closely with the Delegation Welcome Center to ensure as many people were aware of arrivals as possible.
- Accommodations – Worked closely with this group to ensure those delegations not participating in Home Stay to alert that groups arrived either early or late to secure reservations and beds for all delegations. Also proved invaluable to work with for departures as we could check directly with hotels to see if groups had been collected from accommodation site for delivery to the airport.
- Host Town – Alerted this group of delays/early arrivals to communicate changes to volunteer host families.
- Main Area Command – (Especially Wade Morehead) communicated arrivals and delays to this group to alert them to additions to our population of delegates in the Games arena.
- Transportation – Worked closely with transportation to keep buses, cars, and various other means of ground transportation moving and reliable.
Section VII – Forms, Diagrams & Appendices
While the airport did not rely on forms for operations, there were several documents that outlined what procedures we would be working on.
The first was the Airport Operations Summary dated 1/15/09:
2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games Airport Operations – Boise Airport (BOI)
OVERVIEW OF AIRPORT OPERATIONS
Airport Operations will be orchestrated around the Boise Airport (BOI) in Boise, ID throughout the arrivals operational period of (based on current flight information) 1 February 2009 to 11 February 2009 and the departures operational period of 13 February 2009 to 17 February 2009.
The Airport Operations staff and volunteers will be working with several distinct service groups: delegations, families, MVP/All-Stars, and officials. The level of service for each of these groups is as follows:
Delegations: Delegations will be greeted at their respective gates as they deplane based on support from the Clipped Wings organization and the use of security escorts provided by BOI. Those greeting the delegates will preferably be their Delegation Assistant Liaisons, or somebody who speaks their language. As delegations are escorted through the airport, they will gather in the round rotunda and await their transport to the Delegation Welcome Center. Transportation will be provided by the Transportation Department via motor coach or appropriately sized vehicle based on size of delegation. Luggage assistance is also provided, the details of which follow the Services provided for each group.