Airport Management in a ISO 9000 World
“Service Standards on a Global Scale”
by Stephen Irwin, A.A.E.

Interest in ISO 9000 certification is gaining momentum worldwide as organizations that compete in the global marketplace seek to achieve consistent peak performance, world-class quality, and continual improvement in their processes, services and management systems.







Quality is the ability to meet or exceed all the expectations of the consumer of goods or services.


ISO 9000 – What it Is


Creating a quality standard at your airport may seem easy enough; hire the right people, give them some direction and the resources necessary to do their jobs and let them go. But what is “quality” and how do you know when you’ve achieved it? And how do you maintain it once you’re there?


Total Quality Management or TQM popularized the concept of an organization having a quality culture though it didn’t provide a specific, quantifiable measurement tool for achieving and maintaining it. TQM’s focus is on the individual within the organization.  Originally conceived as a quality system for manufacturing, ISO quality assurance standards have evolved and now include organizations whose “product” is service.


Brief History

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), was founded in 1946 to promote the development of international standards and related activities and to facilitate the exchange of goods and services worldwide. ISO is composed of member bodies from over 110 countries. The standard setting body in the United States is ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The quality system as defined by ISO in its 9000 series of standards was developed in response to the challenges of increasing market globalization. One of the unique features of the ISO 9000 standard is third-party certification of an organization’s quality system. This enhances its market image and helps establish its credibility among its customers worldwide. An organization can get third-party certification if it can demonstrate that in its management of quality, it is complying with all the relevant clauses of one of the ISO standards: 9001, 9002, 9003, 9004 and 14000.

The basic ISO methodology begins with an organization documenting its business practices through the certification (or registration) process, and culminating in certification and recognition as meeting one of the international standards. 

The ISO Standards

ISO 9000- Guidelines for use of quality system 

ISO 9001-QA Model for design, development, production, installation and service 

ISO 9002 - QA Model, Same as ISO 9001, but not involving design and development 

ISO 9003 - QA Model for test and inspection 

ISO 9004 - Guide for application of quality management system 

ISO 14000 – Environmental Management

In terms of quality, anything that can be measured can be managed and anything that can be managed can be improved

 Service as a “Product”

ISO treats the delivery of services like any other product. Services can be designed,



delivered and managed for consistency which then translates into a quality upon which the public can rely. This ‘quality guarantee’ could then become a key element of an airports brand marketing program. Consistent, high quality service should become synonymous with an ISO certified airport. 

 The service “product” can be considered unsatisfactory when it fails to meet customer expectations. 

ISO and Brand Management 

Airports work increasingly to differentiate themselves from one another by offering unique or improved programs and services. Success in a highly competitive environment requires the perception of consistent standards in the customers mind. Haphazard or erratic service detracts from brand loyalty. Building brand equity through ISO increases the perceived value, improves the customer experience and permits an airport to dominate their market area. 

ISO, What it is Not 

ISO certification is not a one-time event. You must earn it every day. You do not become ‘certified’ and then set your program aside on a shelf. Adoption of ISO processes represents an organizations continuing commitment to quality. Periodic external program audits verify that commitment to the world. 

ISO is not about being perfect all of the time. Perfect organizations have no need for benchmarks nor a process for maintaining them. ISO exists so that less than quality performance can be


identified and corrected as quickly as possible, at the lowest level possible. 

ISO is not a criterion-based standard but rather a process-based one. Organizations develop their own unique quality benchmarks or objectives and then utilize an ISO process to maintain these objectives. ISO quality standards are not standards in the sense that they mandate strict compliance with some generic quality program.

ISO quality assurance standards are a total quality system for your overall organizational processes.

 ISO standards are not a measure of  an organization’s efficiency, per se, but rather a indication of both how well, and how consistently that organization meets the needs of all its customers. If some higher level of efficiency is achieved as a result, so much the better

ISO is a Customer-Centered Quality Standard 

For the airport operator, ISO is not a static, inflexible international standard imposed on widely differing organizations; rather ISO provides a standardized process that makes quality systems an integral part of your organization. A successful ISO organization is one that grows, evolves and adapts to customer needs at your airport. 

ISO is not a marketing gimmick based on a hollow commitment to quality standards. ISO certification, if viewed simply as a “square” to fill in order to achieve some perceived level of status in the industry ultimately undermines the standard and achieves nothing.

Page 2


Internal and External Customers 

ISO acknowledges the importance of satisfying the quality expectations of both internal and external customers.

Whether ensuring prompt, high-quality repair of facility work orders or consistent delivery of superior services to passengers and tenants, the ISO process can perform equally well 

Properly executed, ISO understands the relationship between interdepartmental quality performance and the end user. ISO 9000 standards are a total quality system for your organization. 

But What Does it Have to do With Airport Management? 

In terms of quality, anything that can be measured can be managed: customer satisfaction surveys, bond ratings, environmental compliance, certification inspections, risk management and utility costs are just a few areas that lend themselves to quality measurement. Airport operators are well aware of the need for standards as evidenced by the enthusiastic acceptance in the U.S. of the Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.) process and award of the A.A.E. designation. In a sense, ISO certification of an airport, like accreditation of an individual, is a symbol of professionalism and an internationally recognized symbol of commitment to quality. 

Consistency is key. The ISO process, assiduously applied can provide that.



Process Improvement: The San Diego Benchmarking Study 

Management at San Diego International Airport, in collaboration with Bill Fife, Corporate VP/Director of Aviation Services with DMJM + Harris together with a peer review group of ten other U.S. airports, developed a set of criteria for objective comparison of one airport’s performance against another. Some of these benchmarks could serve equally well as foundation for an airports ISO quality program. 

  • Passengers per airport employee


  • Airport operating revenue per enplanement


  • Airport operating costs per enplanement, operation and employee


  • Maintenance cost per enplaned passenger


  • Maintenance cost per square foot of terminal space


  • Average time to complete an equipment repair work order


  • Custodial cost per square foot of terminal space


  • LEO/Part 1542 security costs per enplanement


  • Concession revenue per enplanement


  • Percent of non-airline revenue vs. airline revenue


  • Average fares to comparable destinations


  • Percent of payroll spent on overtime


  • Training dollars per airport employee


  • Ground transportation cost per enplanement


  • Parking revenue per O & D enplanement


  • Parking space utilization ratio


  • Number of airline or passenger complaints per month


  • Number of noise complaints per month


  • Average days for accounts receivable collection


To the above, I might add:


  • Results of internal and external customer satisfaction surveys


  • Ratings by travel and trade organizations of your facilities and services


  • Passenger injuries per thousand enplanments


  • Number of city pairs and service frequency.


  • Employee sick day, disability and disciplinary costs.


  • Landside/Airside accidents per thousand enplanments


Airports will discover that benchmarking based on industry

Page 3



best practices is the first step in performance measurement.

Document what you do

Do what you document


Record Control: Getting Started


Much of the ISO process centers around documenting what you do then conducting internal and external audits to ensure you’re maintaining your quality goals. Empowering staff to promptly take corrective action to ‘fix’ slipping quality is essential to maintaining your organizations quality credibility.


Ten Steps to ISO Certification


ü       Evaluation of existing quality procedures against the requirements of the ISO standards


ü      Identification of corrective action needed to conform with ISO 9000 series standards


ü       Preparation of a quality assurance program


ü       Definition, documentation and implementation of new procedures


ü       Train staff on new quality program


ü       Preparation of a quality manual


ü       Conduct internal audit, determine areas of non-compliance  and take corrective action


ü      Pre-assessment meeting with registrar to analyze quality manual



ü       Actual external assessment visit (Audit)


ü       Certification


ISO and SMS 

An added benefit of applying ISO at your airport is its relevance to an impending ICAO requirement for implementation of a Safety Management System, or SMS. SMS is a fundamentally new way of managing aviation safety. A SMS parallels the ISO process in a number of ways, from detailed written procedures, assessment of deficiencies and periodic audits to ensure compliance.  

Safety Management Systems are based on the premise that there will always be hazards and risks, so proactive management is needed to identify and control them before they lead to accidents. SMS requires creation of an internal system of oversight to ensure the safe provision of aerodrome services. Fostering a stronger safety culture within the civil aviation industry through this requirement resulting in the improvement of safety practices and reduced risk and the human and financial costs associated with them is the expected result. 

The basic elements of an SMS include: 

ü       Plan

ü       Identify Hazards

ü       Analyze Risk

ü       Categorize & Communicate Risk

ü       Decide Mitigation Path 

ICAO has mandated that effective November 2005 all signatory States Civil Aviation Authorities put into place a safety management system (SMS) at certificated aerodromes



under their control, with a view to ensuring that operations are carried out in a demonstrably controlled way and are improved where necessary. Periodic audits would be required. 

Managing safety through creation of and compliance with an SMS could either be part of or an extension of an airport’s ISO program.

A “Customer-Centered”


It must be remembered that the customer essentially remains the final arbiter of an organizations commitment to quality, and any quality program, no matter how detailed, must respond to that fact. 

For those airports that have worked hard to put a customer service program in place, maintaining quality over time often becomes a challenge. The ISO process is just what the doctor ordered if you (the Airport Operator) are finding your program performance growing stale and staff motivation waning. By developing an ISO program and empowering staff to sustain it, your organization can continue superior performance indefinitely.  

ISO can also offer the additional benefits of increasing brand loyalty and providing a smooth transition to SMS compliance. 

This article is by no means meant to tell you everything you should know about ISO in an airport setting. It is meant to introduce you to the possibilities that the process offers and will hopefully pique your interest to learn more.





Page 4


For More Information 

On the Web:

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 

Incheon International Airport, Korea

Quality Initiatives in Airports Authority of India

The Airport Association for Benchmarking 

Lucid International

ISO 9001:2000 Explained 

ICAO Safety Management System - Basic (PowerPoint Presentation)


ISO 9001: 2000 Explained
by Charles A. Cianfrani
ISBN: 0873895088


ISO 9000: 2000
New Requirements, 28 Requirements Checklist and Compliance Guide
by Jack Kanholm
ISBN: 1882711076 
Aviation Industry Quality Systems: ISO 9000 and the Federal Aviation Regulations
by Michael J. Dreikorn
ISBN: 087389331X 
ISO 9000: 2000 In a Nutshell, Second Edition
by Jeanne Ketola, Kathy Roberts
ISBN: 0965044599  
ISO 9000: In Construction by Lam Sieh Wah, Low Chin Min, and Teng Wye Ann
ISBN: 0071138366 


Abu Dhabi Airport Wins ISO Environmental Certificate

KLIA Aims for Full ISO Certification

ISO Awards Back Goal of Winning Return Customers

Miami International is First U.S. Airport to Achieve Environmental Certification

Ultimately, ISO is competition with yourself to both consistently deliver and improve the services you provide.





























Page 5