The airport industry is constantly evolving and increasingly complex. Successful airport planning and management requires a comprehensive understanding of the critical interactions between infrastructure development, business strategies and changing regulatory environments; so that airports can be transformed into key assets in making net zero aviation a reality.

The Airport Planning and Management MSc is a unique course created to equip you with skills in airport business development, strategic planning, design, operations and environmental management. This will empower you to pursue a career across various sectors in the entire air travel value chain, including transport and business consultancies, airport design firms, airport operators, travel providers, air navigation service providers and more.


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

Who is it for?

The Airport Planning and Management MSc is suitable for students with a degree in diverse areas of engineering, economics, business studies, geography and social sciences, and with demonstrable interest in the airport industry. You will join a diverse cohort individuals with a passion for aviation and a drive to build sustainable air transport solutions to connect the world.

This course covers a core area of expertise in airport planning and management, while enabling you to specialise in appropriated subject areas. This flexibility means that you may tailor your learning experience to your own interests and career aspirations.

Why this course?

In the Airport Planning and Management MSc you will develop transferable management, communication, teamwork and research skills, and you will attain specific competencies in the airport industry, such as:

  • 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 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.
  • A systemic perspective on the regulatory constraints and commercial and environmental imperatives to identify, analyse and design solutions in order to address contemporary issues within the context of airport planning and management.

Cranfield University is one of the select few universities in the world to run an English language Master's course in airport planning and management, and the only UK university campus with a fully operational airport. 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.

Cranfield University is very well located for visiting students from all over the world. It offers a range of library and student wellbeing facilities and resources 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

The Airport Planning and Management MSc is guided by an Industry Advisory Board to ensure the course maintains its unique characteristics and meets the continuously evolving challenges of the airport industry and associated sectors. This board comprises senior representatives from leading airport consultancies, airport operators and academic institutions. Current members include:

  • Catherine Ashman, Head of Asset Insights and Analysis, Manchester Airports Group
  • George Efkolides, Head of Customer Experience, IAG Cargo
  • Matthew Butters, Aviation Director, Pascall+Watson
  • Andrew Gibson, Global Solutions Director – Aviation, Jacobs
  • Rob Rushmer, Principal, ICF
  • Sugandhi Jayaraman, Senior Airport Planner and Doctoral Researcher, University of Westminster
  • Matt Mullen, Head of Customer Systems & Digital, East West Rail
  • Patrick Ziegler, Senior Consultant, amd.sigma - Strategic Airport Development GmbH
  • Simon Harley, Head of Business Development, London Luton Airport
  • Gerhard Ersching, HR Manager, Vienna International Airport

Course details

Ten compulsory taught modules, two of which elective, 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

    To examine contemporary issues in the air transport industry and an appreciation of the business and opportunities linked to its future prospects. 
    • The global air transport system 
    • Contemporary issues in the air transport industry
    • Prospects for the air transport industry 
    • Sustainable air transport
    • Digital transformation in the air transport industry 
    • Sources of data and information for research in air transport management 

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Explain the essential characteristics of the air transport system, including challenges faced;
  2. Interpret information collated from a variety of resources to support research in air transport management;
  3. Appraise and critique the work of air transport practitioners and specialists; 
  4. Communicate effectively in written form in the context of air transport management.

Airport Operations

    To provide students with knowledge, understanding and skills in airport operations.

    • Airport management systems
    • Airside and landside operations
    • Airport social media
    • 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


    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 airport economics
    • Airport aeronautical charges & airport-airline relations
    • Air cargo for airport managers
    • Airport retail, F&B & media sales
    • Contract models for airport commercial business processes
    • Commercial management of ground transportation
    • Airport costs, out-sourcing and the business of capital investment
    • Airline network strategy
    • Airport marketing and route development
    • Introduction to Finance
    • Financial statements and ratios
    • Investment appraisal
    • Airport competition and strategy
    • Airport economic regulation
    • Airport ownership and privatisation
    • The airport ground handling business
    • Measuring airport business performance
    • Case studies in digitalisation, out-sourcing, retail, strategy and market research from visiting lecturers
    • 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 a problem relating to airport business development.

Geopolitics and International Aviation Law

    To provide a sound comprehension of how legal concepts and regulatory policies affect and apply to the global air transport industry, considering its unique nature. 
    • International regulation 
    • EU regulatory policy 
    • Introduction to international aviation law
    • The 1944 Chicago Convention 
    • Geopolitics and aviation 
    • Airline liability 
    • The bilateral system
    • EU competition law 
    • Impact of deregulation/liberalisation 
    • Safety regulations ICAO
    • Safety regulations EASA/H&S 
    • Environmental regulation 

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Evaluate the contemporary relevance and ongoing effectiveness of the 1944 Chicago Convention for global aviation;
  2. Assess and explore the role of geopolitics in global aviation, including how international relations and geographical location impact and shape the airline industry;
  3. Identify and explore core aviation law theories, concepts and debates and assess how these intersect within a multidisciplinary context;
  4. Detail and analyse how changes in economic regulation and competition law have influenced the evolution of air transport markets around the world today;
  5. Develop and apply a systematic understanding of important aspects of the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions and be able to apply these to solving real-word and scenario-based cases concerning legal liability. 

Air Transport Market Analysis and Forecasting

    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. Analyse 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


    To ensure that upon completion of the module, you will have acquired the required level of knowledge and skills to successfully tackle real-world airport strategic planning problems.  

    • Site selection for new airports 
    • Airport Master Planning 
    • Flexible strategic planning 
    • Airport policy and the planning process 
    • Airport catchment areas and ground transport access 
    • Airport competition and connectivity 
    • Digital transformation and strategy 
    • Airport stakeholder relations 
    • The influence of airline behaviour 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

    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
    • Environmental policy and regulation
    • Communicating with the media and related stakeholders
    • Environmental Life Cycle Assessment
    • Alternative Sustainable Aviation Fuels
    • Sustainable Propulsion Systems
    • Environmental impact assessment
    • Sustainable Airport Master Planning
    • Calculating aircraft and surface access emissions
    • Airport Local Air Quality and Climate Change
    • Airport noise modelling: theory and practice
    • Airport noise mitigation strategies
    • Sustainability Reporting and Sustainable Airport Master Planning 
    • Noise annoyance and Community Relations
    • Circular economic principles in aviation
    • Combatting of wildlife trafficking in aviation
    • 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. Apply different techniques for measuring and calculating the environmental impacts of air transport. 
5. Develop and communicate an environmental strategic plan for air transport. 

Airport Design


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

    • Airport capacity on land- and airside. 
    • Airfield configuration including runway, apron and taxiways. 
    • Terminal layouts. 
    • Surface access design.
    • Baggage handling. 
    • IT systems in terminal design.
    • Aircraft performance and airport design. 
    • Impact of changing industry requirements on airport design. 
    • Passenger flow simulation. 
    • Case studies in airport design. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Demonstrate a clear understanding and knowledge of the fundamental principles of sustainable airport design within the context of climate change, constantly evolving airline requirements and radical alterations to airport surface access as well as international and local aviation policies;
  2. Explore and explain the impact of aircraft performance and characteristics onto the design of the airport infrastructure, including traditional kerosine-, SAF-, electric- and hydrogen-powered fixed-wing aircraft and eVTOL;
  3. Assess, measure and calculate the capacity of airport sub-systems and possess the skills to model passenger flows using design simulation software;
  4. Elaborate future requirements of airports in response to their business diversification and the need to integrate new forms of passenger services supporting the evolution of the airport business model;
  5. Examine and evaluate the ability of airport design to respond to changing requirements within the global economy and growing passenger expectations.

Elective modules
One of the modules from the following list needs to be taken as part of this course

Aviation Safety Management

    To provide students with the fundamental skills required to manage operational safety within the aviation industry.
    • The fundamentals of a Safety Management System, and introduction to associated guidance material provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and other State safety regulatory bodies; 
    • Safety data, safety information and analyses; including reporting systems, investigation and Flight Data Monitoring (FDM);
    • Hazard identification and risk management, including an introduction to Enterprise Risk Management (ERM); 
    • Safety performance and safety health; including guidance on audits and safety promotion; 
    • Safety organisations, including guidance on effective management of safety teams. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  • Describe the fundamental concepts behind Safety Management Systems (SMS), as defined by ICAO and other regulatory bodies;
  • Select and implement techniques for the identification, quantification and management of hazards and risks;
  • Critically assess strategies for developing and enhancing safety culture including the role of leadership, structure and reporting systems;
  • Identify techniques for measuring safety performance; 

Digital Airline Management

    To provide students with an understanding of the developments in technology and digitalisation in the airline sector and how this impacts the airline business.  


    Developments of IT within the airline sector (e.g. blockchain)
    Digital transformation processes
    Data sources in airline management
    The use of data within airlines (e.g. forecasting)
    Airline e-commerce
    Social media
    Digital developments in airline operations (flight and ground operations, air cargo, MRO)

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  1. Examine the characteristics and key drivers of technology in the airline sector.
  2. Assess the potential applications of technology and the digital transformation process in the airline sector.
  3. Appraise the role of e-commerce and social media in the airline sector.
  4. Identify and judge the data sources available in airline management.
  5. Examine the data available in the airline sector and assess its usefulness in airline management.

Regional Aviation

    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 business and management problems in regional aviation.

    • Regional airline economics
    • Regional airline strategy
    • Regional airline network planning
    • Regional aircraft performance and economics
    • Regional airline fleet planning
    • Management of regional airports and ATC
    • Subsidies, public service obligations, and other support mechanisms
    • Case studies and practitioner visiting online lectures
Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

1. Discuss the key economic and business features that are common to regional airlines and evaluate how these differ from other airline business models.
2. Critically analyse and appraise business problems relating to regional airline strategy and network planning.
3. Critically evaluate the performance characteristics of regional aircraft in the context of regional airline fleet planning and the implications on business performance.
4. Critically evaluate the common economic and business challenges faced by airports and providers of ATC in regional markets.
5. Critically analyse and appraise policy challenges relating to the use of essential air service support mechanisms that are often applied to remote / peripheral regional markets.

Air Transport Marketing


    To provide a sound comprehension of the how marketing concepts and theories can be applied to the airline industry, considering its unique nature. 

    • Introduction to Marketing  
    • Consumer Behaviour 
    • Market Segmentation 
    • Airline and airport products
    • Market Research, survey design, and analytical approaches
    • Branding, Promotional communication and loyalty 
    • Distribution  
    • Airport marketing 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Describe the characteristics of the main segments of airline and airport markets;
  2. Identify and explain the key issues in planning airline products and the importance of product differentiation;
  3. Assess the links between advertising, promotion, branding and customer loyalty;
  4. Assess current issues in airline distribution;
  5. Evaluate and apply the work of other practitioners and specialists. 

Air Transport Strategic and Marketing Management


    To assist air transport managers to formulate and implement strategies in order to create sustained competitive advantage.

    To provide a sound comprehension of how marketing concepts and theories can be applied to the air transport industry, considering its unique nature. 


    Introduction to strategic air transport management 
    Core concepts of strategic management
    Performing strategic analysis 
    Strategies used to respond to competition and competitive advantage 
    Airline business diversification strategies 
    Introduction to marketing 
    Consumer behaviour
    Market segmentation
    Airline and airport products
    Customer experience and journey 
    Branding, promotional communication and loyalty
    Pricing and revenue management
    Airport route development and marketing

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Identify, appraise and critique strategic management and marketing concepts applied by airlines and airports. 
  2. Assess how different strategies impact the competitiveness of airlines and airports, including the planning of products and the importance of product differentiation.
  3. Examine the characteristics of the main segments of airline and airport markets.
  4. Assess the links between advertising, pricing, promotion, branding and customer behaviour.

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, architects, historians, and civil, aeronautical and industrial engineers with strong publication records and vast industry experience. The course director for this programme is Dr Edgar Jimenez Perez.

Your career

After completing the Airport Planning and Management MSc, you will be in a unique position to respond to the need for talented individuals to drive the transition towards a sustainable air transport system. The course offers varied and exciting career possibilities from planning and management consultancies that advise airports and authorities across the world, airport designers, developers and operators, to air transport infrastructure, service and travel providers, including for new forms of air transport such as advanced air mobility.

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 within a range of roles:

Airport Planner
Aviation Consultant
Operations Controller
Senior Airport Planner
Project Manager
Strategic Planning and Sustainability Specialist
Senior Design Manager
ORAT Coordinator

Organisations that employ our graduates have included:

Arup Jacobs Consultancy
Mott MacDonald AtkinsRéalis
Airbus Manchester Airport Group
Korean Airports Corporation Malaysian Airports
ICF International Aviation Economics
Heathrow Airport Group ADP – Aeroports de Paris

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

Cranfield’s Career Service is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. Support continues after graduation and as a Cranfield alumnus, you have free life-long access to a range of career resources to help you continue your education and enhance your career.

How to apply

Click on the ‘Apply now’ button below to start your online application.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.