Preparation is everything: A bigger picture of the Soccer World Cup

by Jan Uphues
Photo credit: Sheremetyevo press service

What a show! This year’s soccer World Cup in Russia is over and it was, as usual, exciting with many highs and lows. Now that some days have passed and emotions have cooled down, it’s time to look back and recap. There were victories and failures – cheer up, German National Team! – as well as many surprises. Who would have bet on Croatia finishing second in the tournament? And how many great soccer nations had to leave the party early (or were not even allowed to show up)? With all these uncertainties ahead, the planning and organization of this event had to be thorough and sophisticated. The logistic challenges were huge – you can read more about them in our blog post (German language) published a week before the opening celebration.

Of course, these challenges also relate to aviation and all ground processes at airports. The requirements associated with the World Cup had to be taken into account: In all eleven host cities, the airports were given new terminals – with the exception of the airport of Sochi, which had already been completely rebuilt and expanded before the Olympics. A counterexample is the host city Rostov-on-Don: for the first time since Soviet times, an airport had been built from scratch. It is called Platow and it is intended to be an important hub in the future for southern Russia.

Calculate scenarios and situations

But that was just the construction part of it all. More importantly, plans and contingency plans had to be created for all the processes and potential challenges that may occur during the event. Many scenarios and special situations had to be calculated beforehand. Lots of extra manpower and resources had to be available on short notice during the entire event; always expecting the unexpected. An example: What if a title favorite with a huge fan base in place had to leave early, leaving thousands of grieving fans who all of a sudden want to get home as quickly as possible? The infrastructure needed to be prepared for a rush like this. In a nutshell: the airports had to be brought in shape to be able to support the first World Cup in Russia.

Airports were prepared

To leak the results before you read on: Yes, they were prepared. Take the Sheremetyevo International Airport, the largest of the three Moscow Airports, as an example. The investments in its development projects were huge, amounting to a total of 722 million US Dollars (excluding VAT). New infrastructure facilities were already opened in 2017: The modern cargo terminal "Moscow Cargo" with a capacity of 380,000 tons of cargo per year was put into operation, equipped with a unique automated system of storage and handling of goods.

Another unique project at the airport is the underground interterminal passage (UIP) that includes passenger and luggage tunnels with a length of 1936 meters each and two stations. For the first time ever, the tunnels were constructed under working runways. This unites the entire Sheremetyevo airport under one "roof".

Even more important, however, was to provide all additional passengers with an infrastructure with sufficient capacity and sophisticated processes. To achieve this, the construction workers were kept busy up to the last minute. Terminal B was opened just a few weeks before the World Cup, with a capacity of 20 million passengers per year, including 19 boarding bridges and 64 check-in desks, including 16 self-check-in desks. The terminal was explicitly created for domestic flights as part of the preparation program for the World Cup.

However, with a lot more than the normal number of international guests to be expected at the airport, it was obvious that additional measures had to be taken to ensure a smooth passenger flow. For this purpose, an easy-to-understand infrastructure with clear signs was provided to avoid confusion: Sheremetyevo placed navigational signs with the names of the airlines at the entrances to Terminal D. These signs promoted the redistribution and optimization of passenger traffic, which led to a reduction in the queues and time of inspection. The numerical designation of the single columns just outside the building allows passengers and guests to accurately determine their location in the terminal areas. This was especially helpful when, for instance, a taxi was ordered or a meeting was appointed in a specific place.

Quick identification by FAN ID

Also, right before the World Cup, technical support points (PTP) began to work in the arrival halls of international flights on terminals D, E and F. Their task was to ensure an unimpeded passage of border controls of the holders of a FAN ID at the passport control booths. The FAN ID is an identity document required by the Russian authorities. All ticket holders for the games needed one, in addition to a valid ticket to access the stadiums and enter the Russian Federation without a visa. When arriving at the Sheremetyevo airport, owners of the FAN ID received necessary assistance related to the entry into the territory of Russia.

An additional coordinating service was set up to improve the service to passengers on international flights and reduce the time for passage of formalities at checkpoints across the state border. To prevent long queues and provide a convenient and prompt passage of passport control, the employees of the service, if necessary, evenly distributed the flows in the waiting areas and provided passengers with the necessary assistance. Special attention was paid to elderly passengers, passengers with children, passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs), transit and transfer passengers as well as holders of diplomatic passports and aircraft crew members. To provide these and other services, a total of 800 volunteers were trained solely for the duration of the World Cup.

Closing Thoughts

With these combined efforts, the organizers haven proven that their concept worked. Thanks to IT-based systems and careful planning, this huge event was also a success on the organizational front. The facts speak a clear language: throughout the entire World Cup, there were no signs of significant disorders at Sheremetyevo or any other major airports. Well played, Russia!

Have you ever experienced a flight during a World Cup or maybe the Olympic Games? Share your thoughts!

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About the author

  • Jan Uphues

    Jan Uphues started working as Marketing Manager in INFORM’s Aviation Division in 2018. He particularly enjoys the “Max Thrust!” moment on the runway.

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