Ops Planning for High-Traffic GA Events – Part 1: Preplanning Tips

PT 4 M minute read
Ops Planning for High-Traffic GA Events – Part 1: Preplanning Tips

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operations planning for high-traffic events.

When high-traffic events–such as certain international sporting, political, economic and religious events–take place, additional challenges come into play when planning general aviation (GA) operations. This is especially true for events that bring in an influx of GA traffic. Securing your preferred arrangements for landing permits, airport slots, services, and hotel accommodations is often the greatest challenge.

We cover operational planning for many events like these on this blog; however, there are some general best practices you can follow for nearly any event to help you minimize the impact that operational challenges/restrictions will have on the success of your mission.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Examples of high-traffic events

High-traffic events that impact business aviation include the recent World Cup in Brazil, the 2014 Winter Games, the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), St Petersburg International Economic Forum, ABACE, EBACE and LABACE airshows, G20 Leaders Summits, Carnival (Rio, Venice, etc.), Cannes Film Festival and Formula One races routinely held at assorted venues across the world.

2. Impact of high-traffic events

Over the years we’ve seen increasing numbers of operators traveling to major event venues. Due to high demand for airport infrastructure, issues with aircraft parking and local services (fuel availability, handling, etc.) are often experienced. During the Davos WEF, for example, Zurich (LSZH) always runs out of parking. During the November2014 APEC CEO Summit a multi-day curfew was placed on all general aviation (GA) activity at Beijing (ZBBA) – other than for lead APEC participants. The World Cup event in Brazil was particularly challenging in terms of securing airport slots, aircraft parking and hotel accommodations. During any major event period there’s often a requirement to reposition corporate aircraft. Also, be prepared for increased aircraft service fees and potential fuel shortages.

3. Advance planning tips

When operating to high-traffic events, it’s best to begin the trip planning process two to three months – or up to a year in advance. For example, it’s not uncommon for operators heading to the Davos WEF to begin planning their annual trips a full year in advance. Pre planning can make a huge difference in terms of ensuring parking, aircraft services and crew accommodations.

Still, there are times – particularly at locations not accustomed to large spikes in aviation traffic – where issues will be experienced even with months of advance planning. For instance, the World Cup in Brazil was challenging for many business aircraft operators, despite many of them starting trip planning efforts well in advance.

Of course, there will be times when your preplanning efforts won’t be enough to get you your preferred arrangements. This is where your “Plan B” planning comes in. For instance, when overnight parking cannot be secured, you’ll need to look at options to drop passengers and reposition.

4. Permit/visa considerations

Securing landing permits for high-traffic event periods can require additional lead time as permit processing may take longer. Augmented crew data, passenger information, as well as additional aircraft documentation, may be needed in order to provide the location with more in depth information on the type and purpose of your flight. Visa requirements must also be reviewed well in advance of traveling to major international high-traffic events. Also, be aware that additional visa–related requirements may be temporarily imposed during these events, and processing times could be longer.

5. Airport slots and PPRs

For high-traffic events, airport slots and prior permission required (PPR) are almost always in place for operators. Airport authorities will often implement these restrictions in advance, if they’re not already in place, and this requires you to arrive/depart on time. If you miss your approved time, fines may be imposed at the discretion of airport authorities, and/or you may have to start a slot request/PPR application all over again.

6. Parking issues

Aircraft parking, together with airport slots and/or PPR, are always the major concern when planning trips to preferred airports during large event periods. Once you’ve confirmed parking and slots/PPR, all of the other details are usually manageable. Parking spot confirmations, in some cases, are possible well in advance of day of operation. At other locations, however, parking may only be assigned last minute, and this can create issues with other services you’ve booked – such as hotel accommodations, in-flight catering, fuel uplifts and local transport. It’s best to consider alternate and repositioning options in the event that parking isn’t an option at your primary destination.

7. Crew duty time

Consider the impact on crew duty time if you’re not able to arrange parking at the preferred destination and need to reposition. Charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators are constrained by strict crew duty day limitations, and more and more private non-revenue operators are following crew duty limitations as published in their standard operating procedures (SOPs).

8. Customs/immigration clearance

When operating to busy event locations, customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) clearance may be slower. You may need to clear via the main terminal as opposed to within an FBO or onboard the aircraft. There may also be additional security clearance processes in place which could, potentially, delay the arrival/departure process somewhat. It’s recommended that the CIQ clearance process is researched in advance so that you may prepare your passengers on what to expect.

9. Hotel and local transport

Anticipate hotel accommodation issues whenever operating to large events. Hotel room prices may be much higher with extended cancellation policies or non-refundable deposit requirements in place. This is particularly true for popular international hotel chains. In terms of local travel, be prepared for lack of availability of secure transport as well as limitations on all forms of local transport. Options for particular vehicle types, or drivers who speak your language, may be limited.


For best results, when traveling to large event venues, plan your schedule as early as possible to snag the best parking, airport slot/PPR and crew accommodation options. Ensure that required visas, permits, vaccinations, etc. are obtained and coordinate closely with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler throughout the process.

World Cup, 2014 Brazil and Brazil 2014 are trademarks of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”). Universal Aviation is not in any way associated with FIFA.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to a large event, contact Louis Smyth at louissmyth@univ-wea.com.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers contingency planning for travel to large events.

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