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Sat 28 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Rapid progress

Salem Ahmed Sahab, of Saudi's General Authority of Civil Aviation, on modernising the Kingdom's hubs.

Dr. Salem Ahmed Sahab, vice president of the corporate core for Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation, on modernising the Kingdom's hubs.

How long had you been in negotiations with SITA for the IT systems installation deal?

The search for a capable vendor for the proper common use terminal equipment (CUTE) and baggage reconciliation systems (BRS) started in 2006, where SITA and other companies were involved.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always aspired to achieve the best in all aspects of life.

The initial scope was restricted to the international airport terminals that serve foreign airlines. This restriction was made on purpose to better qualify the capability of vendors that showed an interest in our project.

What's your involvement in this deal?

The involvement of my department has always been a reflection of the needs and requirements of the airlines community in Saudi Arabia because we are in direct contact with those carriers' representatives.

Also, our relationship with the International Air Transport Association offered an assurance that the CUTE and BRS systems we were planning to select fully comply with tomorrow's technologies and airlines' best interests.

How many companies tendered for the contract?

Three international companies tendered for this contract.

Why choose SITA over other bidders?

SITA proposed a well-balanced solution that satisfies our technical aspirations, IATA's regulations and recommendations, and our financial expectations.

Also, SITA's worldwide experience, local presence in Saudi Arabia, and its large international market share in our domains of interest provided an extra assurance of success.

We believe that the way SITA handled this contract from the beginning was based on partnership rather than a commercial, one-off deal.

Why decide to update IT systems across the airports?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always aspired and actively sought to achieve the best in all aspects of life. The aviation sector, and airports in particular, has always been a focal point given the benefits it generates for the country as a whole.

Keeping the airports' CUTE and BRS systems constantly updated allows for smoother airline operations and faster handling of traffic. This subsequently leads to a more relaxing experience for all passengers using Saudi airports.

This is how we, as the General Authority of Civil Aviation, can contribute to improving Hajj, business and commerce, tourism and many other activities taking place at the moment in the Kingdom.

What type of technology is SITA installing at the hubs?

SITA is installing the latest technology used in departure control through a common use infrastructure that simplifies check-in passenger boarding. Also, SITA is improving baggage handling through its state-of-the-art baggage reconciliation service.

Will the same technology appear in the Kingdom's domestic hubs?

That is correct. The same scope of work currently being deployed in the international airports will follow in domestic ones.

How is the installation progressing?

The installation is going as per the plan agreed between GACA and SITA, and we expect to be well within the deadlines set in advance.

When will the work be complete?

The project has been split into phases. The last phase is expected to be completed before the end of 2008.

How will the new technology improve operations at each airport?

Our aim is to improve and simplify the journey for all passengers using our airports, whether international or domestic. We are looking to reduce queues in the airports by depending more on modern technologies that save passengers' time and improve general flights security.

How do airport operations in Saudi compare with other Mid-east countries?

Saudi Arabia has the largest number of airports in a Middle Eastern country and compared to our size of population, we are ranked among the top nations in the world. This is a huge responsibility that we are undertaking since we have to keep the standards high everywhere.

We also have to ensure the operations are fully co-ordinated. Furthermore, since airports and flights safety and security have always been a major concern, not only for us but for most nations around the world, managing several airports is a major challenge.

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