By Jihad Boueri
How can airports in the Middle East improve the passenger experience?
Mounting pressure to keep things simple for airline passengers
With growing demand for air travel, airport authorities around the world are looking for solutions that will assist in managing and improving the passenger experience. The bulk of their future investments are expected to focus on information technology solutions that can lead to improvements in productivity and efficiency. From these investments, the highest priority will probably centre on passenger processing and services, along with passenger security and aircraft operations.
Major investments in advanced solutions within the middle east
Advanced airports technology has been introduced in a number of Middle Eastern countries to help facilitate each passenger's journey through the airport. This helps to reduce queues and quickly bypass individuals through the check-in system, passport and border control. In particular, Sharjah International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport are well on the way to fulfilling investment in passenger processing, having installed Common Use Self Service (CUSS) technology to decrease the time spent at check-in, with Sharjah airport even announcing the deployment of the world's first Common Use Self-Service (CUSS) kiosks with an Arabic interface.
Building a solid case study in the region's biggest airport market
Another regional example is Saudi Arabia, which has more civil airports than any other country in the Middle East. Since the late 1970s, the Kingdom has achieved unprecedented growth in the fields of civil aviation, with giant leaps in quality too. This has generated major developments in Saudi Arabia's passenger, air cargo and air navigation and control systems.
The search begins for a flexible and proven technology solution
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) manages all 26 airports across the Kingdom. In 2006, the authority faced a number of challenges in managing its international airports. This included improving and simplifying the passenger experience, reducing airport queues and tightening flight security. GACA was looking for flexible and proven IT systems that would enable it to integrate and automate operations at the country's airports in a cost-effective manner - providing benefits for airlines, in addition to passengers.
A proposed solution that meets international regulations
SITA was able to propose a well-balanced solution that satisfied GACA's technical aspirations, as well as IATA's regulations and recommendations. Through a five-year, US$16.8 million IT solution focused on departure control systems, passenger check-in and baggage management, SITA is helping to drive transformations at each of Saudi Arabia's international airports. The solution includes SITA's IT systems, such as AirportConnect Open, Maestro DCS (Departure Control System) Local, and BagManager.
How different systems were able to produce a complete solution
SITA's AirportConnect Open enables airlines operating from each of Saudi international airports to have their own proprietary applications running on CUTE (common-use terminal equipment). This reduces pressure on airport space and provides airlines with greater flexibility in how they operate within the airport environment - particularly in meeting seasonal traffic demands, such as Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. SITA's MaestroDCS (Departure Control System) Local is a fully automated check-in, boarding control and weight and balance system for aircraft departure control.
Designed for airlines, airports, ground handlers and charter companies, it provides check-in and departure control for Saudi airports. Finally, SITA's BagManager provides the airports with tighter security, improved customer service, and better baggage control by tracking the location of every bag within an airport and across multiple airports. It also ensures that passengers and their baggage travel together, which enables the airports to meet security recommendations from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Using the new solution, Saudi Arabia's international airports have streamlined and improved the passenger travel experience, reduced waiting times and improved security. The solution has also benefited the airlines serving Saudi Arabia's international airports.
Jihad Boueri is the regional vice president of solution line, SITA Middle East and North Africa.