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Airport Technology Management: Operations, Software Solutions and Vendors

Increasing passenger growth coupled with capacity constraints means that operating an airport demands insight and collaboration for the timely allocation of workforces and assets as well as the ability to make the right decisions at the right time to keep things moving.

SITA Airport Management is a suite of integrated software applications designed to support and enhance airport operations from landside to airside, from landing to take off. With SITA Airport Management solution, you have access to real-time data to better anticipate, plan and control your operations, assigning assets and resources more effectively.

SITA Airport Management gives you control of all of your operations from a central point. From service level agreements (SLAs) to passenger communications, from generating billing charges to real-time management of fixed and mobile resources, including staff.

Our AODB underpins A-CDM ensuring all key stakeholders have access to the data and shared KPIs they need to efficiently manage their daily operations.

SITA Airport Management covers all your needs

AirportCentral – central repository of all flight data (AODB), aeronautical billing calculations, management of departure sequences and use of the runway, runway and apron management

AirportResource  Manager – fixed and mobile resources management (comprising of de-icing, runway capacity and passengers with reduced mobility), including staff

AirportVision – dynamic flight information display system combined with graphical, video and textual information

AirportVoice – public address and media manager system

When used in a multi-airport environment, our solution standardizes operations across multiple sites, multiple regions and multiple cultures – giving you greater control of your operations, simplifying complexity and facilitating collaboration.

Balance operational efficiency with business results

With continuing growth in aircraft movements and passenger travel, airports are potential bottlenecks. Failure to optimize and increase airport capacity is a recipe for failure.

To ensure success, SITA’s Airport Management helps you to:

Implement a robust and efficient operational planning

Airport Management’s scheduling and ‘what if’ scenario simulation ensures support for every operational flight planning and management processes.

Proactively control real-time operations

Airport Management enables prediction of events, automatic triggering of tasks and real-time intelligence for timely decision-making. These help you to improve planning and operations, minimize disruptions and optimize your mobile workforce, equipment and infrastructure.

Continuously improve business results

Airport Management helps you optimize performance and revenues with real-time dashboards, targeted advertising, accurate billing, definitions of key performance indicators (KPIs) and predictive analytics based on ‘what if’ billing scenarios.

Achieve airport collaborative decision making (A-CDM) compliancy

SITA is able to provide the mandatory modules, integration capabilities and consultancy to drive the organizational changes required to achieve A-CDM compliancy also according to EUROCONTROL definition.

Enable systems integration

Airport Management integrates and simplifies your infrastructure and data, facilitating collaboration with all internal and/or external airport’s stakeholders.

Increase on time performance by real-time information sharing amongst all airport stakeholders.

Airport Technology Management: Operations, Software Solutions and Vendors
Airport operations

Modules of airport management software

Airport management software solutions and vendors

Final word

Imagine an airport. What are the first things that come to mind? A cavernous terminal, information displays, long queues, baggage claim conveyors, arriving aircraft waiting to be fueled and catered for imminent departure. Airports have a tight flight schedule with its associated staff management, passenger processing, attention to minute detail, and much more. Airport automation speeds up the processes and improves the quality of service.

We have addressed best practices for modernizing airline operations and put our talents to work for Merlot Aero advance airline management. In this article we will take a detailed look at main airport operations and the ways integrated software solutions can facilitate them, as well as describe some integrated airport management suites from key vendors.

Our article consists of two major parts: a general overview of key airport operations, and the description of some of the most widely used solutions on the market. If you know the basics, just skip the first part and go straight to the second one.

Airport operations

Before we learn about the software, let’s start with the main airport operations. They can be divided into four types: landside operations, airside operations, billing and invoicing, and information management.

Landside operations are aimed at serving passengers and maintenance of terminal buildings, parking facilities, and vehicular traffic circular drives. Passenger operations include baggage handling and tagging. Terminal operations comprise resource allocation and staff management.

Airside operations include aircraft landing and navigation, airport traffic management, runway management, and ground handling safety.

Billing and invoicing operations cover aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue. Ledger or accounting systems contain information regarding airport finances: flight bills, handling invoices, cash, sales within the airport (points-of-sales), staff payrolls, etc.

Information management relates to the collection and distribution of daily flight information, storing of seasonal and arrival/departure information, as well as the connection with airlines.

Airport management systems, as airport software is often called, serve to optimize all these operations: passenger processing, baggage tagging and handling, arrival/departure operations, departure control systems, information distribution, and air traffic control (ATC). Airport software can also include other solutions, like CRMs and environmental management systems. Let’s take a closer look at the modules of airport management software.

Modules of airport management software

Airport management systems usually have most of the following modules, but they are not limited to them.

Airport software system

Airport Operational Database (AODB)

Software providers: Amadeus IT Group, Leidos, SITA, Rockwell Collins, Siemens

Each airport has its own central database that stores and updates all necessary data regarding daily flights, seasonal schedules, available resources, and other flight-related information, like billing data and flight fees. AODB is a key feature for the functioning of an airport.

This database is connected to the rest of the airport modules: airport information systems, revenue management systems, and air traffic management. The system can supply different information for different segments of users: passengers, airport staff, crew, or members of specific departments, authorities, business partners, or police. AODB represents the information on a graphical display.

AODB functions include:

Reference-data processing

Seasonal scheduling

Daily flight schedule processing

Processing of payments

The most important information that this database holds is the seasonal schedule. It displays information about commercial flight movements for a season. Usually, it contains the flight code, type of aircraft, their estimated arrival and departure times, multi-stop flights, operation days of the week, exception dates, and other relevant information. This information entered manually or downloaded allocates such resources as arrival or departure gates, air-bridges and stands, check-in desks.

While AODB stands alone and doesn’t belong to any operations, it is the backbone of the airport. Information stored in AODB facilitates the planning and allocation of the physical and financial assets of an airport.

Landside operations

Software providers: SITA, Rockwell Collins, NEC, ISO-Gruppe.

Operations performed by this module include terminal operations and airline departure control: passenger check-in, customs, baggage handling, screening, etc. Some airports have automated biometric control. Passenger data is integrated into the border management system that allows the appropriate personnel to check a passenger in the databases. Let’s look at the services integrated into the airport management software.

Passenger facilitation services include passenger processing (check-in, boarding, border control) and baggage handling (tagging, dropping and handling). They follow passengers to the shuttle buses to carry them to their flights. Arrival operations include boarding control and baggage handling.

Border control (customs and security services). In airports, security services usually unite perimeter security, terminal security, and border controls. These services require biometric authentication and integration into government systems to allow a customs officer to view the status of a passenger.

Baggage handling. Obviously, a passenger must check a bag before it’s loaded on the aircraft. The time the baggage is loaded is displayed and tracked until the destination is reached and the bag is returned to the owners.

Common Use Services (self-service check-in systems). An airport must ensure smooth passenger flow. Various digital self-services, like check-in kiosks or automated self-service gates, make it happen. Self-service options, especially check-in kiosks, remain popular. Worldwide in 2018, passengers used kiosks to check themselves in 88 percent of the time.

Self-boarding gates at Gatwick Airport

Other landside modules include:

Terminal management. The software Includes maintenance and monitoring of management systems for assets, buildings, electrical grids, environmental systems, and vertical transportation organization. It also facilitates staff communications and management.

Staff management. Staff modules provide the necessary information about ongoing processes in the airport, such as data on flights (in ICAO or UTC formats) and other important events to keep responsible staff members updated. Information is distributed through the airport radio system, or displayed on a PC connected via the airport LAN or on mobile devices.

Reporting. This module allows the staff to see data on screen or in print to understand the effect of the ongoing processes on business decisions and overall functioning of the airport. Also, it can include reports from airlines, aircraft, operators, hourly activity of passengers and aircraft, movement types, etc. They include an aircraft’s timetable, routes, and destinations, as well as traffic distribution.

Air Traffic Management

Software providers: AIS, Adacel, Transoft, Pacific Controls, SITA

Airside operations comprise control and facilitation of aircraft handling and parking. This includes air traffic control equipment and management solutions for air navigation. Most airside solutions are oriented toward aeronautics and plane allocation.

Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN) Systems. AFTN Systems handle communication and exchange of data including navigation services. Usually, airports exchange traffic environment messages, safety messages, information about the weather, geographic material, disruptions, etc. They serve as communication between airports and aircraft.

Software for aeronautical telecommunications stores flight plans and flight information, entered in ICAO format and UTC. The information stored can be used for planning and statistical purposes. For airports, it’s important to understand the aircraft type and its weight to assign it to the right place on the runway. AFTN systems hold the following information:

 

Aircraft registration

Runway used

Actual time of landing and departure

Number of circuits

Number and type of approaches

New estimates of arrival and departure

New flight information

Air traffic management is performed from an ATC tower.

ATC Tower. The Air Traffic Control Tower is a structure that delivers air and ground control of the aircraft. It ensures safety by guiding and navigating the vehicles and aircraft. It is performed by way of visual signaling, radar, and radio communication in the air and on the ground. The main focus of the tower is to make sure that all aircraft have been assigned to the right place, that passengers aren’t at risk, and that the aircraft will have a suitable passenger boarding bridge allocated on the apron.

The ATC tower has a control room that serves as a channel between landside (terminal) and airside operations in airports. The control room personnel are tasked with ensuring the security and safety of the passengers as well as ground handling. Usually, a control room has CCTV monitors and air traffic control systems that maintain the order in the terminal and on the apron.

Apron Handling. Apron or ground handling deals with aircraft servicing. This includes passenger boarding and guidance, cargo and mail loading, and apron services. Apron services include aircraft guiding, cleaning, drainage, deicing, catering, and fueling. At this stage, the software facilitates dealing with information about the weight of the baggage and cargo load, number of passengers, boarding bridges parking, and the ground services that must be supplied to the aircraft. By entering this information into the system, their costs can be calculated and invoiced through the billing system.

Invoicing and billing

Software providers: Amadeus IT Group, AIS, Damarel Systems International LTD

Each flight an airport handles generates a defined revenue for the airport paid by the airline operating the aircraft. Aeronautical invoicing systems make payment possible for any type and size of aircraft. It accepts payments in cash and credit in multiple currencies. The billing also extends to ATC services.

Depending on the aircraft type and weight and ground services provided, an airport can calculate the aeronautical fee and issue an invoice with a bill. It is calculated using the following data:

Aircraft registration

Parking time at the airport

Airport point of departure and/or landing

Times at the different points of entry or departure

The data is entered or integrated from ATC. Based on this information, the airport calculates the charges and sends the bills.

Revenue management. Non-aeronautical revenue management systems are comprised of accounting systems, business intelligence, payrolls, and revenue from ground handling services in airports.

Information management – Airport information systems (AIS)

Software providers: Rockwell Collins, Siemens, Ultra Electronics Holdings, Amadeus IT Group, SITA.

This category includes all types of software that collect, distribute, and update information from around the airport, including public address systems and flight information display systems (FIDS). They receive data from airlines and terminals, data on time and gates of arrival that must be sent to the passengers. However, they also can display marketing information or any other non-flight-related types, for example, weather or news broadcasts.

Airport information systems include flight information display systems (FIDS), airport announcement or public address (PA) systems, and automatic terminal information service (ATIS).

Flight Information Display Systems (FIDS) exhibit the status of boarding, gates, aircraft, flight number, and other flight details.  A computer controls the screens that are connected to the data management systems and display up-to-date information about flights in real time. Some airports have a digital FIDS in the form of apps or on their websites. Also, the displays may show other public information such as the weather, news, safety messages, menus, and advertising. Airports can choose the type, languages, and means of entering the information, whether it be manually or loaded from a central database.

Airport announcement systems or public address (PA) systems inform passengers and airport staff about any changes and processes of importance, for instance, gates, times of arrival, calls, and alerts. Also, information can be communicated to pilots, aircraft staff, crew, etc. PA systems usually include voice messages broadcasted through loudspeakers.

Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) broadcasts the weather reports, the condition of the runway, or other local information for pilots and crews.

Some airport software vendors offer off-the-shelf solutions to facilitate particular tasks, like maintenance, or airport operations. However, most of them provide integrated systems that comprise modules for several operations. Let’s look at some of them.

Aviation and Airlines Software Ticketing, Flight Operations
Main features:
Materials management
Resources Management
Technical publications
Cargo Management
Onboard Catering and provisions
Revenues Analysis
Pricing and revenue management
Departure Control
Online Direct
Flight Operations
Maintenance Planning
Crew Management
Recovery
Airport Operations
Loyalty programs
Computer reservation system

Aircraft Maintenance Management

 

Aircraft Digital Logbook is aviation maintenance software and includes features such as compliance management, components tracking, logbook tracking, manuals, and work order management.

Aircraft Maintenance Systems (AMS) is the industry’s premier provider of aviation maintenance software. Covering all aircraft maintenance and inventory operations, Aircraft Maintenance Systems’ flexible and modular software suite helps improve aircraft uptime, optimizes operational efficiency, cuts costs, and enhances customer service with its robust set of business intelligence tools that include analysis, reporting, and forecasting features.

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