SITA launches AI-enabled solution to address issue of lost items

By Airports, Baggage handling, FeaturedNo Comments

SITA has launched an artificial intelligence-enabled solution that address the million-dollar headache for airports and airlines of reuniting passengers with their lost property.

Every year passengers leave millions of items – including phones, wallets and bags – in airports and on aircraft. It’s an issue that costs the industry millions of dollars in repatriation costs and can cost up to $95 to manage and repatriate a lost item, including registration, handling inquiries, customer calls, storage and postage.

SITA’s new WorldTracer Lost and Found Property solution can cut costs by 90% and significantly reduces repatriation time. Leveraging the technology provider’s WorldTracer solution, which is already used in 2,200 airports by the majority of the world’s airlines, Lost and Found Property cuts the cost of repatriating lost items by 90%. It also dramatically speeds up the time taken to find and return found items, which 60% of these items returned within the first 48 hours.

Using cutting-edge technology such as computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing, WorldTracer Lost and Found Property searches a global database of images and descriptions to match the found item to a missing item report. Image recognition is used to identify details such as brand, material, and colour of the missing item. The airline or airport can then immediately notify the owner and return the item. Passengers have full visibility of the process through the WorldTracer portal no matter where in the world the item was lost, a feature that is expected to significantly improve passenger satisfaction.

“WorldTracer is a great example of how SITA continues to evolve its portfolio to meet the changing demands of the industry. For almost three decades WorldTracer has helped to successfully trace mishandled bags. Now, using new technology, we are adding further value by helping the industry be more efficient and reduce costs around lost items at a time when it is most needed,” said David Lavorel, CEO SITA at Airports and Borders.

Menzies awarded five-year contract by Wizz Air at Oslo Gardermoen Airport

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Hungarian-based airline Wizz Air has awarded Menzies Aviation a five-year ground handling contract at its recently launched Olso Gardermoen Airport base.

Under the agreement Menzies will provide a full suite of ground handling services to the low-cost airline to support the smooth operation of its domestic flights. When flight volumes at the airport recover it is expected that this contract will represent 5,000 turns per annum, as Wizz Air looks to grow its presence in the Norwegian market.

The news follows the recent renewal of Wizz Air and Menzies’ agreements at Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague and further strengthens the relationship between the two companies. In November 2020, Wizz Air chose Menzies as their ground handling partner as part of a five-year agreement at their Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport base, with Menzies already supporting the carrier at airports in London, Cluj, Timisoara, Iasi and Sibiu.

“It’s fantastic to see our relationship with Wizz Air go from strength to strength. We ended last year with a major contract win at the airline’s Budapest base and have built on this to both secure our contract renewal at Prague and this latest award at Olso. These successes are the result of a close working partnership we have established with Wizz across our network of stations, and the excellent service provided by Menzies professionals on the ground. we are looking forward to ramping up our support of Wizz operations as flight volumes return,” said Thomas Andersson, VP Northern Europe, Menzies Aviation.

JLC unveils new Airbar-Q barrier system for airports

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UK-based engineering company JLC Group has launched its new Airbar-Q barrier system, enabling efficient controlled queuing systems. The barrier system is ideal for facilities such as airports, which with restrictions easing are preparing to open up and welcome increased passenger traffic.

The Airbar-Q forms a key component within the passengers journey, allowing for higher efficiency and cost savings. The product has been designed to connect with many different hardware and software applications including people counting, queue management applications and remote control triggers, offering maximum flexibility.

Made from flexible material the Airbar barrier ensures there is no risk of harm to customers while also creating a visible and physical barrier with customisable messages/ logos and advertisements.

The elephant in the room: Can insights from wildlife trafficking address other forms of smuggling?

By Airports, Featured, InsightsNo Comments

Many in the air transport sector have already stepped up as global leaders in the fight against wildlife trafficking, which may prove critical to helping mitigate the risk of future disease events and pandemics. As a result comprehensive training and protocols are already being adopted by airports, as well as airlines and enforcement agencies to combat wildlife trafficking. Now, a new brief Shared Skies, released by the USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) has the potential to help strengthen not only how wildlife trafficking is addressed but the wider spectrum of transnational crime too.

The brief contains research under the ROUTES partnership, with insights into how illegal wildlife trade overlaps with other illicit trades such as drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods. It urges that wildlife trafficking should be brought into the bigger picture of transnational crime and gives guidance on how identifying the points of convergence between these two illicit trades can help aviation and enforcement agencies secure air transport from criminal activity.

Shared Skies identifies five levels at which convergence of illicit trades may occur: within the same shipment, coordinated by the same organisation, using the same routes, passing through the same hub (which includes airports), or travelling through the same jurisdiction. It also draws upon case studies of illicit convergence and crucially, advises on how this information can be leveraged to disrupt criminal activities and stop trafficking of various kinds.

The authors underline that criminals operating in black markets rely on the same vulnerabilities in transport networks, as well as in communications and finance. “Data on the convergence of illicit activity at each level can be leveraged to shed light on transnational trafficking operations,” said Ben Spevack, lead author and senior analyst at C4DS (which produced the brief). “Improved sharing of convergence data amongst counter-trafficking stakeholders would increase collective capacity to secure the aviation industry from illicit activity,” he continued.

Data collated on trafficking through the airports and the wider aviation sector found a high rate of convergence between wildlife and other forms of illicit trade.

Michelle Owen, ROUTES lead said, “The findings indicate that wildlife trafficking should be treated as an integral part of the bigger picture of transnational crime. Approaching the issue in singularity inhibits counter-trafficking efforts across the whole spectrum of illicit trades, all of which threaten national security, human well-being and contribute towards corruption.”

She added that “making anti-wildlife trafficking efforts part of protocol can bolster other counter-trafficking efforts in many ways and vice-versa.” Shared Skies’ five-level framework helps outline the unique trends and vulnerabilities that each convergence level offers and gives recommendations on how this information can be applied. As an example it underlines that the emergence of a convergent trafficking hub may warrant more staff training, improved scanning technology or the removal of an insider threat.

“For instance, training aviation staff to recognise and report a wildlife trafficking attempt can result in seizures of other contraband: perhaps within the same shipment, or perhaps by uncovering an organisation that deals in other illicit trades too,” noted Owen.

Stressing the importance of a holistic approach, the brief urges customs and other enforcement authorities to increase their public reporting and accessibility to seizure data in order to build a more complete picture of transnational crime, identify more trends and direct mitigation efforts where most needed. It also calls for greater collaboration across law enforcement and the private sector to identify criminal convergence and for the development of mitigation strategies that address all commodity types.


Amadeus addresses digital health verification needs for passengers

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Amadeus has embedded digital health passports into its Traveler ID platform to help airports and airlines speed up passenger processing while meeting regulatory requirements.

A secure platform, Traveler ID connects, digitises and automates traveller identification and document validation across the passenger journey. Following the addition of  the new capabilities it now also addresses global passenger health verification needs  by connecting the health certification touchpoints end-to-end, integrating multiple stakeholders involved in the process and providing a secure way for passengers to show they have the necessary health documentation in order to travel.

Addressing concerns around data security and privacy, Traveler ID enables passengers to choose when and where they want to provide digital evidence of their health status.

Airports can integrate the solution directly into their own digital channels, as can airlines. And because it sits natively within their IT systems, there’s no need for travellers to be redirected to third-party apps. It can be used by the passenger either before departure or while at the airport, during check-in, at a self-service kiosk or bag drop.

“Self-service check-in is a fundamental step for passengers to flow smoothly through an airport and onto a plane,” said Monika Wiederhold, Amadeus’ Global Program Lead for Safe Travel Ecosystem, and EVP Airlines Central and Eastern Europe. “Yet the current need for manual checks of health documentation, while maintaining social distancing, means that some of our airline customers currently require around 90% of their usual check-in staff to process just 30% of passengers. Travel ID’s new capability allows a passenger to show required health documentation in a secure and automated way, by adding it digitally into the airline or airport system, whether passengers check-in from home or at the airport,” she continued.

Amadeus is integrating its Travel ID solution with multiple health information aggregators, such as CommonPass and ICC AOKpass to enable travellers to retrieve digital records through the provider of their choice, without leaving the airline website, mobile or app. The platform also has direct connections to test centres partnering with airlines, providing a global, robust coverage.

To help restart travel and meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 Amadeus is bringing together travellers, governments and travel providers together through its Safe Travel Ecosystem programme, which recognises that industry-wide collaboration and open technology is key to facilitating a safer, smoother journey.

Explaining how Traveler ID contributes to the Safe Travel Ecosystem initiative, Wiederhold said: “One of our main objectives through the Safe Travel Ecosystem is to put our technology and expertise at the service of our customers in order to drive travel recovery. One way that we are doing that is by connecting existing identity and health validation initiatives in order to accelerate global adoption. All travel providers are united in our aim to strengthen traveller confidence, and the new capability that we are announcing today in Traveler ID will help support that by reducing queues and bottlenecks throughout the journey. This is only the beginning, with great potential for this solution with further customer groups. ”

Editor’s comment: Automation acceleration

By Airports, Featured, InsightsNo Comments

While aviation remains under extreme pressure amid the global pandemic, what weʼre seeing now is a confirmed recovery phase, according to David Lavorel, CEO of Airports and Borders at SITA.

Speaking during a media briefing to present its 2020 Air Transport IT Insights on Tuesday 23 February, Lavorel said the lack of passenger traffic over the past 12 months had refocused spending priorities for airports. The report’s key findings show that there has been an accelerated investment in automated passenger processing solutions, with the industry focusing on touchless and mobile services in response to COVID. There is also a spotlight on virtual and remote IT services to accommodate the need to work from home and more efficient IT operations to help ramp up communications with passengers. Cybersecurity and cloud services also remain vital areas for investment.

Lavorel pointed out that 89% of airports are currently investing in automated check-in solutions, while self-bag-drop solutions continue to be a rising trend, with 79% of airlines working towards enabling this technology in airports.

As one of the newer trends brought about in response to lockdowns, virtual IT operations have seen greater investment, with 84% of airports investing in this area. Meanwhile, more than 90% of airports plan to invest in more efficient IT operations, and 87% of airports are focused on business intelligence and exploiting their data for better operational decisions.

“The COVID crisis has accelerated a number of trends that were already present. In particular, thereʼs been a strong push for automation and data-based collaboration between industry players,” said Lavorel. “And we see investments being made that are going to be important in managing the crisis and recovery period, but that will also lead to more efficient, better passenger-friendly operations.”

But is there a fear that regional airports and cash-strapped smaller airports will be left behind when it comes to the wider roll-out of automated and touchless passenger processing solutions?

“It’s a question thatʼs certainly in need of attention,” said Lavorel,  as he explained that SITA is already working on a range of solutions to cater for different sized facilities and budgets. “We’re developing a number of products that bolt-on and build on existing IT assets that airports have already invested in,” he said. SITA’s President Europe, Sergio Colella, added: “In addition to making best use of an airport’s existing infrastructure, itʼs also about leveraging the cloud architecture.”

As the industry turns its attention to new automated technologies, itʼs vital that no airport is left behind, but that new solutions deliver consistent improvements to the passenger experience no matter which airport they start or finish from!

I hope you enjoy this weekʼs newsletter and have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank,
Editor, Regional Gateway.

Frequentis acquires parts of ATM product segment from L3Harris Technologies

By Airports, ATM, FeaturedNo Comments

The communication and information solutions provider for safety-critical applications, Frequentis, has agreed to acquire the air traffic management (ATM) voice communications and arrival management product business from US company L3Harris Technologies.

The acquisition, costing $20.1 million, comprises the acquisition of: the ATM voice communication systems produce line of L3Harris; the Harris air traffic control (ATC) Solutions business unit of Harris Canada Systems; as well as 100% of the shares in Harris C4i Pty and Harris Orthogon GmbH.

Australian-based C4i will complement the Frequentis ATM defence portfolio by its high secure interoperable communications solutions for mission-critical environments. Meanwhile Frequentis will continue to market German-based Orthogon’s leading products for traffic synchronisation for ATC en-route, approach and airport ATC centres, including them in their offering for digital towers and centres. And by acquiring the Harris ATC Solutions business unit of Harris Canada Systems, Frequentis will expand its technical solutions and add an even wider range of solutions to its already extensive portfolio.

The two companies have also entered into cooperation agreements, under which Frequentis as an L3Harris’ technology partner will provide voice communication products for use in L3Harris’ large-scale solutions and services business.

“Even in the currently challenging times we are committed to advance and to continuously innovate,” said Norbert Haslacher, CEO of Frequentis, commenting on how the acquisition will enable his company to grow its global customer base.

“Traffic optimisation is crucial, even and above all, in times of low traffic. It is our commitment to an efficient and environmentally sustainable air traffic management environment, driven by digitalisation and automation.” He added, “This acquisition, as well as the strong cooperation agreed with L3Harris is perfectly in line with our corporate strategy and achieves a key step in the evolution of Frequentis as a global supplier of mission critical solutions.”

Aurrigo launches autonomous luggage and cargo transport solution

By Airports, Featured, Ground handlingNo Comments

Autonomous vehicle specialist, Aurrigo, has launched Auto-Dolly, its autonomous luggage and cargo system that promises to offer a range of operational and financial savings to the aviation sector.

The new system will provide airports with the opportunity to move luggage and cargo around indoor and outdoor settings without the need for human operators, as it has the ability to navigate autonomously from one task to another, collecting and dropping off the luggage or cargo automatically using a powered roller deck and the unique ability ‘crab’ sideways when docking and parallel parking. It is also capable of operating in snow, heavy rain, direct sunlight and fog.

Trials of the Auto-Dolly have already shown that this technology can reduce the number of traditional tugs and trailors used to transport luggage and cargo by two thirds, as well as substantially cutting carbon emissions.

“The aviation sector is going through one of the worst periods in living memory. When it emerges, ti will need to explore ways where it can achieve cost savings and increase operational efficiencies, including turning around planes and getting them away on time,” said David Keene, Chief Executive of Aurrigo. He added that Auto-Dolly will revolutionise airports by improving efficiency in the way aircraft luggage and cargo is handled. In addition, it virtually eliminates all human contact from the baggage and cargo process and is able to carry a load.

“Our autonomous vehicles are controlled by our AI based cyber secure fleet management system called Auto-Connect, which intelligently assigns Auto-Dollies in the optimum way to meet the strict operational deadlines at the airport,” added Keene.

Alongside the Auto-Dolly, Aurrigo has also launched its Auto-Sim product – an airport simulator tool allowing customers to baseline current operations and then model how to migrate from manual methods through to a fully automated Auto-Dolly.

“Engagement with lead customers, together with continuing on-site airport trials, have been fantastic and we’re now in the position to launch our Auto-Dolly solution to the world,” concluded Keene. “This could equate to hundreds of millions of pounds of cost reduction every year for the airport industry, plus the  huge environmental savings gained by reducing the overall emissions of the fleet of today’s inefficient tractors and trailors.”

Editor’s comment: A learning process

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

While we have encountered crises in the past, nothing compares to the impact of the global pandemic on the aviation sector. However, lessons have been learned and we should remain hopeful for the future. That was the messaging during a discussion between Kadri Samsunlu, CEO Istanbul Airport, and Ken OʼToole, Chief Development Officer at Manchester Airports Group (MAG), during the CAPA Live EMEA Airport leaders panel on Wednesday 10 February.

Describing the last 12 months as a ʻblack swan eventʼ, Samsunlu said: “It’s astonishing to see how passenger numbers have collapsed back to traffic levels last seen in 2000. We’re all trying to manage the current crisis and see when the recovery will really commence and when we will see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

While big airports have been able to generate some business, Samsunlu underlined that small and regional airports are really struggling with the lack of aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue streams.

“As operators we need to be flexible,” he said. However he also underlined that one take-away from this crisis is that “a multi-lateral framework should have been put in place much faster.” He added, the current lack of such a framework has led to far greater suffering across the global airport community. “I would like to see greater cooperation going forward and in preparation for when the next pandemic comes,” Samsunlu added.

Acknowledging that MAG (which operates Manchester, as well as London Stansted and East Midlands airports in the UK) has lost a third of its workforce with passenger traffic down around 90%, OʼToole agreed that inconsistencies in government policies and travel restrictions have slowed the recovery of the aviation sector.

“There needs to be greater clarity on the recovery strategy and what health and travel measures need to be in place in order to get the sector back up and running. Right now we don’t have that,” he said.

Referencing the reduction in flight schedules for carriers around the world, Samsunlu said hub airports – which are geared up for getting as many people on each flight as possible – will fare better in a post-crisis world than those geared up for point-to-point operations. He also said that thanks to Turkey’s strong domestic market and a strong flagship carrier – Turkish Airlines – Istanbul has not fared as badly as some of its airport counterparts during the crisis.

Although Manchester and Stansted predominantly offer point-to-point operations, OʼToole pointed out that two-thirds of the UK population are within 1.5 hours of each of those airports, so it’s about the fundamentals of having a strong catchment and access to markets with a propensity to fly. “On the airline side, our view is that the strong players from the pre-pandemic landscape will be even stronger coming out of this. So alignment and strong relationships with the likes of Turkish Airlines and big LCC players across Europe will be critical for the recovery of airports and will complement that strong catchment,” he added.

And while OʼToole also underlined that there is a continual challenge between airlines and airports as to the differing perspectives on costs and fees, “cheapest does not necessarily mean most efficient”. Ultimately, he said, passengers have a choice which airport they travel from and the passenger experience is important to consider when factoring in the cost of operating from an airport.

Both Samsunlu and OʼToole agreed that contactless solutions, biometrics and investing in digital capabilities across the airport experience will be key to recovery and to restoring passenger confidence. Samsunlu also added that “while safety and hygiene will continue to be a top priority, some measures such as social distancing will be difficult for smaller airports to maintain once passenger traffic is at its peak again”.

Airports will also need to be more creative with how they use their space. MAG operates eight airport lounges in the UK and another 13 in the US and OʼToole said this is an area where the group is seeing more traction in terms of passenger demand and from airports wanting those additional facilities. And while the traditional model for retail and food and beverage concessions needs to adapt to a more digital distribution model, OʼToole believes passengers will still want this experience as part of their airport journey.

Concluding their discussion, both Samsunlu and OʼToole concurred that aviation is a resilient industry and that there is hope for the future.

“It’s been a horrendous 12 months and we’re not out of the woods yet,” said OʼToole. “But experience shows that aviation recovers and does so quickly. The lessons learned from the last year and the changes we’ve had to make will mean our operating and financial models will be stronger going forward.”

Listen, learn and keep looking ahead. Itʼs a good mantra for the coming months or possibly years!

Have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway

Editor’s comment: Big problems require big solutions

By Airports, FeaturedNo Comments

With the aviation industry seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place, it has been tricky to stay positive this week. But a positive outlook is exactly what is needed!

So with that in mind, a post on LinkedIn by former Marketing Director of easyJet and easyGroup, Tony Anderson, has piqued my interest. Discussing how big problems need big, imaginative solutions, Anderson asks whether using airports as mass vaccination centres over a short-term period is a crazy idea or not?

In some ways it makes a lot of sense, especially as Anderson points out, airports typically have ample parking, excellent public transport links and are accessible for wheelchair users. They also have trained and available staff to administer vaccines, refrigeration units at food outlets for vaccine storage and easy-to-clean facilities.

In addition, many airports and especially those with cargo facilities, are already playing an integral role in supporting the transportation and distribution of vaccines around the world. Airport staff are already used to accommodating large numbers of people, while the infrastructure and technology to process and move people safely and securely between different locations within an airport is already in place. Existing passenger processing solutions, such as check-in desks, could even be used to register an individual’s arrival. Using airports as temporary vaccination centres could also provide a revenue stream for all those involved. It’s starting to not sound like such an outlandish idea after all!

It’s not a completely novel idea either. Berlin’s Tegel Airport, which closed for good last November, has already reopened its doors to thousands with Terminal C being repurposed as a vaccination centre. Similarly, part of Berlin Brandenburg’s Terminal 5 (formerly Schoenefeld Airport) has also been sectioned off to establish a vaccination facility.

It might be a big, bold suggestion, but given the current lack of passenger traffic and the need for airports to be flexible, perhaps it’s time to explore an idea that has the potential to speed up the vaccination process for all.

Have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank

Editor, Regional Gateway