A unique course created to meet a demand clearly stated by employers for graduates skilled and qualified in airport business development, planning, design, operations and environmental management. Study at the only UK university campus with a fully operational airport.


  • Start dateOctober
  • DurationOne year full-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 50%, Group project 10%, Individual research project 40%
  • QualificationMSc
  • Study typeFull-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

Cranfield University is the only university in the world to run an English language master's course in airport planning and management. Achieving this highly relevant and globally respected degree will enable you to stand out in a competitive employment market.

Cranfield's Centre for Air Transport Management combines a wealth of practical expertise with extensive research, consultancy and teaching experience in one centre of excellence. We have been providing postgraduate education for almost sixty years. You can be sure that your qualification will be valued and respected by employers throughout the world.

Why this course?

In addition to management, communication, team work and research skills, you will attain the following learning outcomes from this course:

  • A systematic understanding of relevant international and national regulations and the ability to explain their effects on airport business, planning, design, operations and safety management decisions
  • A critical awareness of the key issues that affect users of airport facilities (e.g. airlines and retailers) and the ability to explain the impact of their commercial pressures, strategic decisions and priorities on airport business, planning, design, operations and safety management decisions
  • How to identify, analyse and design solutions in order to address a given research problem within the context of airport planning and management, having regard to regulatory constraints and commercial and environmental imperatives
  • Undertake and successfully complete a substantial programme of independent research, applying robust methods of data collection and analysis, and communicating the findings coherently.

Cranfield University is very well located for visiting students from all over the world, and offers a range of library and support facilities to support your studies. This MSc programme benefits from students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds which significantly enhances the learning experience for both staff and students.

Informed by Industry

Directed by an industrial advisory committee comprising senior representatives from leading airports and associated sectors. This group meets annually to ensure that the course content will equip you with the skills and knowledge required by leading employers.

Industrial Advisory Committee members include:

  • Catherine Ashman, Senior Airport Planner, Arup
  • Anna Gawthorpe, Safety and Compliance Manager, Execujet
  • Andrew Gibson, International Technical Director - Aviation, CH2M HILL
  • Andy Jefferson, Programme Director, UK Sustainable Aviation
  • Rob Rushmer, Director, Leigh Fisher
  • Richard Timberlake, Director - Transportation, Dar Group

Course details

Nine compulsory taught modules, a group project and an individual research project.

Course delivery

Taught modules 50%, Group project 10%, Individual research project 40%

Group project

In April students are divided into groups of seven to ten, and asked to solve a current airport planning and management challenge. The group project draws upon the learning from the taught modules and applies it to real-life simulation. Each member is required to take responsibility for a key area, for example, market analysis, capital expenditure forecast or terminal design. The group submits a report of their findings and recommendations and delivers a presentation to staff, students and industry experts. 

Projects are usually supported by industry and potential future employers value this experience. Industry involvement is an integral component to the group project, to give you first-hand experience of working within real life challenging situations.  

Previous Group Projects have included:

  • Evaluating the business case for extending the runway at Birmingham Airport
  • The preparation of development plans for two new airports in South-West England
  • Designing a new passenger terminal for Leeds-Bradford International Airport.

Individual project

The individual research project is the single largest component of this course and is an opportunity to study a problem in detail. Sponsoring organisations may co-operate in the choice of a suitable subject. Project topics vary widely and are often based on your area of interest. The individual research project component typically takes place between April and August.

Previous individual research projects have included:

  • An analysis of the hubbing strategy of Air France/KLM at Amsterdam Schiphol airport
  • The implications of secondary slot trading on airport revenues
  • Air traffic distribution in a multi-airport environment; the Mumbai metropolitan region


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Introduction to the Air Transport Industry

Module Leader
  • Andy Foster
    To provide an introduction to the air transport industry and an appreciation of the business and operational challenges faced by its key components.
    Introduction to the aviation system
    o Past, present and future trends
    o The airline business
    o The airport business
    o Airport planning, design and operations
    o Air traffic management
    o Aircraft characteristics and trends
    o Multimodality and surface transport complementarity
    Challenges in the air transport industry
    o Aviation safety and security
    o Air transport and the environment
    o Air transport and the economy
    o Regulation and aviation law
    o Corporate citizenship and social responsibility•
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Describe the key components of the air transport system, explain their essential characteristics and illustrate the challenges they face;
2. Recognise and interpret the safety, security and environmental dimensions of the aviation industry;
3. Collect information from a variety of electronic (internet) and hard copy sources to support research in air transport management;
4. Appraise and critique the work of air transport practitioners and specialists;
5. Communicate effectively in written form in the context of air transport management

Airport Operations

Module Leader
  • Rich Moxon
    To provide students with knowledge, understanding and skills in airport operations.

    • Airport management systems
    • Airside and landside operations
    • Airport technical services
    • Control of emergencies and contingency planning
    • Airport security
    • Airport safety management systems and risk assessment
    • Airport customer service
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Explain key airport operations and describe their contribution to service provision.
2. Evaluate the thought processes required in effective airport business recovery following an airport incident or process change.
3. Critique the requirement for (and the components of) a robust airport security plan and safety management system.

Airport Finance and Business Management

Module Leader
  • Dr Romano Pagliari

    To ensure that when students complete the module they will have received the required level of knowledge and relevant sets of skills in order to apply these competently to help them solve airport business management problems.

    • Fundamental principles in microeconomics 
    • Airport aeronautical charges and airport-airline relations
    • Air cargo for airport managers
    • Maximising airport retail / F&B / advertising sales
    • Contract models for airport commercial business processes
    • Airline network strategy
    • Airport marketing and route development
    • Finance, financial statements and ratios
    • Airport competition and strategy
    • Airport economic regulation
    • Airport ground handling
    • Measuring airport business performance
    • Case studies from airport business management practice
    • Case studies and group exercises
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Assess the financial performance of airports through analysis, interpretation and evaluation of financial statements and business performance ratios.
2. Evaluate the financial feasibility of proposed airport development projects through applying appropriate investment appraisal techniques.
3. Calculate an airport’s level of aeronautical charges using turnaround cost and aeronautical yield approaches and to critically discuss the results within the context of its business development prospects.
4. Explain relevant concepts of micro-economic theory and their application to the airport industry.
5. Critically evaluate the key drivers that shape an airport’s commercial / non-aeronautical business performance.

Regulatory Policy and Air Law

Module Leader
  • Professor Keith Mason
    To provide a sound comprehension of how legal concepts and regulatory policies affect and apply the air transport industry, considering its unique nature.
    • International regulation
    • EU regulatory policy
    • Introduction to air law
    • The Chicago convention
    • Airline liability
    • EU air law
    • EU competition law
    • Impact of deregulation
    • Introduction to airport regulation
    • Safety regulations ICAO
    • Safety regulations EASA/H&S
    • Environmental regulation

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the respective roles of air transport industry regulatory institutions and be able to evaluate their effectiveness.
2. Demonstrate how changes in economic regulation and competition law have influenced the evolution of air transport markets.
3. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of important aspects of the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions and be able to apply these to solving cases concerning legal liability.

Research Methods and Statistics


    To facilitate the use of basic research methods and fundamentals of statistical analysis to solve research problems in the air transport industry.


    Research methods

    • The research process and ethical considerations
    • Research design in the management context
    • Overview of research methods
    • Case study, surveys, interviews, focus groups, e-research
    • Analysing qualitative data 

    Statistics and quantitative data analysis

    • Data collection design and variable definition
    • Univariate analysis - descriptive statistics
    • Univariate analysis - probability distribution, statistical significance
    • Bivariate analysis with categorical variables
    • Contingency tables, Pearson’s chi-square
    • Multivariate analysis with continuous variables
    • Correlation, Linear regression models, Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)
    • Data analytics and visualisation
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Evaluate and select the most appropriate research methods and statistical techniques in application to different research needs
2. Critically evaluate research from methodological perspective in terms of its suitability and effectiveness
3. Formulate and demonstrate practical application of research methods in the theoretical design of a study
4. Interpret and evaluate basic statistical results of research/consultancy reports.
5. Propose and apply analysis and interpretation skills appropriately to a substantial dataset.

Air Transport Market Analysis and Forecasting

Module Leader
  • Dr Chikage Miyoshi
    Obtain the theory and knowledge, skills of ‘demand forecasting’, and apply to the practical work for the air transport industry.
    • Introduction to air traffic forecasting
    • Air travel demand
    • Market analysis
    • Trend analysis
    • Time series analysis
    • Market share forecasts
    • Long term forecasts
    • Econometric modelling
    • Evaluating forecasting results
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Appraise key factors affecting demand for air travel.
2. Collect data and select the most appropriate model to produce a traffic forecast.
3. Evaluate forecasting methods and interpret the results with confidence.
4. Appraise and critique the work of other practitioners and specialists.
5. Communicate effectively, in written form, the research work produced.

Airport Strategic Planning

Module Leader
  • Rich Moxon

    To ensure that when students complete the module they will have received the required level of knowledge and relevant sets of skills in order to apply these completely to solve airport strategic planning problems as practitioners

    • Airport Master Planning
    • Site selection for new airports
    • Airport policy and the planning process
    • Flexible strategic planning
    • Airport stakeholder relations
    • Airport Surface Access Planning
    • Economic impact of airports
    • The impact of airline industry changes on airport planning
    • Workshop on airport planning
    • Case studies in airport strategic planning

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the process of airport capacity planning within the context of changing airline industry structure, national airport policy goals and planning constraints.
2. Identify the key components involved in approving airport development projects and be able to appraise the arguments for and against expansion.
3. Compare, analyse and assess different location options for new airports and understanding the interaction of key variables in the decision-making process.
4. Collect information from a variety of electronic (internet) and hard copy sources to support research.
5. Appraise and critique the work of other practitioners and specialists, communicate effectively, in written form, research work produced, and complete coursework to set deadlines.

Air Transport Environmental Planning

Module Leader
  • Dr Thomas Budd
    To ensure that upon completion of the module, students have received the required level of knowledge and relevant skills to tackle contemporary air transport environmental planning challenges.  
    Air transport and the environment: background and context
    Airport environmental capacity
    Environmental policy and regulation
    Communicating with the media and related stakeholders
    Environmental life cycle assessment 
    Alternative fuels 
    Environmental impact assessment
    Aircraft emissions
    Terminal and ground transport emissions
    Local air quality and climate change
    Airport noise modelling: theory and practice
    Airport noise mitigation strategies
    Psychological factors of noise annoyance: community relations
    Case studies 
    Role-play exercise
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Demonstrate an appreciation of the key features and characteristics of the environmental externalities of air transport at varying spatial scales. 
2. Critically analyse the various technical, commercial, economic and political dimensions of environmental impact mitigation. 
3. Identify current and future environmental policy and regulatory controls on the air transport industry and assess trade-offs between competing priorities.
4. Demonstrate the application of different techniques for measuring and calculating the environmental impacts of air transport. 
5. To develop and communicate an environmental strategic plan for air transport. 

Airport Design

Module Leader
  • Henrik Rothe

    To provide students with the knowledge, understanding and skills in the design of airports and associated facilities in respect to contemporary commercial requirements.

    • Capacity of airport sub-systems (land-side and air-side).
    • Runway configuration, apron, taxiways.
    • Terminal layouts.
    • Surface access design.
    • Baggage systems.
    • IT systems in terminal design.
    • Impact of aircraft performance on airport design.
    • Impact of industry changes on airport design.
    • Operations simulation and passenger flows.
    • Case studies in airport design.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a clear understanding and knowledge of the fundamental principles of airport design within the context of changing airline industry, national airport policy goals and airport design constraints.
  2. Understand the influence and impact of aircraft performance and design characteristics onto the design of the airport infrastructure.
  3. Assess, measure and calculate the capacity of airport sub-systems and possess the skills to model passenger flows using design simulation software.
  4. Generate an outline airport design to a given specification, including runway configuration (and associated airside infrastructure), apron and terminal layouts and landside surface access systems.
  5. Demonstrate the ability of airport design to respond to changing requirements within the global economy and growing passenger expectations. Assess constraints (e.g., security) in a context of increasing commercial pressure onto airport operators.

Group Project

Individual Research Project


    The award of a Masters degree resulting from a taught programme of study requires the student to submit a thesis based on a structured programme of research. This structured programme is typically delivered through collaboration with an industrial sponsor; although it may it may be driven by research interests of the School’s academics. The thesis should satisfactorily set out the results of the structured programme and demonstrate the candidate’s ability to conduct original investigations, to test ideas (whether the candidate’s own or those of others) and to obtain appropriate conclusions from the work. In most cases, the results of the research programme should be set in the context of related work previously published by others. The student is required to communicate their findings in a thesis and through a viva voce, oral presentation and a poster.

    The subject matter range will be dependent upon the specific nature of the project.
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:
1. Identify a research question.
2. Develop project objectives.
3. Select and justify methodologies appropriate to the task.
4. Plan and execute a work programme with reference to professional project management processes (e.g. time management; risk management; contingency planning; resource allocation; health and safety).
5. Evaluate and critically analyse literature; analyse data, synthesise a discussion, generate conclusions.
6. Place the findings of the work into the context of the work of others.
7. Communicate findings in the form of a thesis, formal presentation and viva.

Teaching team

You will be taught by Cranfield's Centre for Air Transport Management's leading experts and recognised external specialists. This multi-disciplinary group includes a unique blend of airport economists, transport geographers, marketing specialists, and aeronautical engineers with strong publication records and industry experience. The course director for this programme is Dr Thomas Budd.

Your career

Working in an airport environment offers varied and exciting career possibilities. Graduates should be able to pursue a career working for an airport authority in business development, operations, design and planning or with one of the many planning and management consultancies that advise airports across the world.

Our passion for the areas of expertise we operate in, and our hands-on relationship with industry are unparalleled. This is recognised globally by potential employers and we have a proven record of graduate employment across airports, consultancies and associated industries.

Previous graduates have secured employment with a range of companies including:

  • Arup
  • Jacobs Consultancy
  • Mott MacDonald
  • Airbus
  • Korean Airports Corporation
  • Malaysian Airports
  • SH&E
  • Aviation Economics
  • Heathrow Airport.

We also provide access to our exclusive LinkedIn Cranfield University - Air Transport Group, which offers unrivalled networking and job opportunities.

How to apply

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at this time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

Victor Ravelli

"This course has such a strong reputation in the aviation industry and is recognised and well known by many experts. During my master's we had many industry experts and CEOs visiting and giving lectures."

Victor Ravelli, Airport Planner