Frankfurt Airport selects SITA to transform passenger experience

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SITA, the technology provider for the air transport industry, has been selected to deploy its biometric-enabled kiosks and baggage messaging services at Frankfurt Airport, in line with the airport’s plans to increase operational efficiency and improve the passenger experience.

The installation of 87 SITA TS6 kiosks is expected to be completed later this year. The versatile biometric-enabled kiosks, which work alongisde SITA Flex, enable passengers to check in quickly and obtain bag tags for later self-bag drop services. The new SITA TS6 kiosk was the winner of the 2021 IF Design award and was credited for its slick, sustainable and adaptive design, which can be tailored to suit the airport’s brand design and specific customer requirements. Its modular design also mean modifications and enhancements can be made without replacing the entire kiosk.

“Offering passengers innovative, safer, and smarter ways to travel while also ensuring we have resilient and efficient airport operations is vital as our industry recovers from the impact of the pandemic. SITA supports us in achieving this ambition and we look forward to welcoming more passengers back to the skies,” said Pierre-Dominique Prumm, Executive Director Aviation and Infrastructure at Fraport.

The deployment at Frankfurt Airport marks SITA’s largest implementation in Europe.

Memphis Airport partners with Amadeus to support transformation to ‘origin and destination’ hub

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As part of its transformation over the past few years from a regional hub to an ‘origin and destination’ airport, Memphis International Airport in Tennessee has diversified its number of carriers rather than serving as a transfer hub for one primary airline. The airport is now working to actively recruit additional airlines, including ultra-low-cost-carriers that fly point-to-point routes. To complement its concourse redevelopment, the airport has also teamed up with Amadeus to acquire a new generation of IT systems to support this transformation.

“Our modernisation project will reinvent the travel experience for the Memphis passenger, and welcome millions of travellers to our great city. This technology will be a key part of our modernisation and our operations moving forward,” commented Scott A. Brockman, President and CEO, Memphis International Airport.

With a more diverse range of airlines using the airport, Memphis has sought to enhance its operational capabilities with technological upgrades that include several Amadeus Airport Management Solutions.

The introduction of a new Airport Operational Database (AODB) provides information that includes airline flight schedules a year in advance, so all systems and partners at the airport have a consistent, long-range operational view. Meanwhile the Amadeus Resource Management System (RMS) will help with managing the transition to shared gates, ticket counters, and baggage drop-off points, based on a real-time view of demand from different airlines. The airport will also use the Amadeus PROPworks contracting and billing management system.

Elena Avila, EVP Airport IT and Airline Operations, Amadeus noted that: “Airports across the United States are adapting to the operational shifts ongoing in aviation. Our technology is specifically designed to help manage the complexity of terminals and resources that are shared by multiple carriers, which will prove critically valuable in this ongoing transformation. In particular, we’re excited to support this important transformation at Memphis.”

Leonardo upgrades baggage handling systems at 10 Spanish airports

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Leonardo, the baggage handling solutions specialist has been selected to upgrade the baggage-handling systems at 10 Spanish airports including: La Palma, Santiago-Rosalia de Castro, Valencia, Asturias, Bilbao, Jerez, Reus, Lanzarote, Internacional Region de Murcia and Sevilla.

The combined contracts covering the airports across mainland Spain and the Canary Islands is worth in excess of €35 million and in line with the agreement Leonard will be responsible for ensuring the systems meet the latest security standards. The upgrades will be delivered in partnership with Spanish construction firm, Cemosa.

In addition to replacing baggage transport components, electro mechanical, control, supervision and management equipment for baggage sorting, the project will also see baggage handling systems equipped with European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) Standard 3-approved security technology, including x-ray and computed tomography (CT) scanners.
With the work expected to last less than two years, the 10 airports will be upgraded simultaneously with the continued operation of baggage management services guaranteed by Leonardo throughout the duration of the upgrade work.

Swissport enters into strategic partnership with Airportr

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Swissport, the airport ground services and air cargo handling services provider has entered into a strategic partnership with Airportr – the digital platform and provider of smart baggage management solutions.

With the ability to transform the passenger experience as well as drive operational efficiencies, the collaboration will enable off-airport baggage processing for airports and airlines.

Regardless of whether they travel in economy, business or first class, passengers will be able to pre-book an at-home baggage collection slot for departing flights. A courier will then digitally verify ID and travel documents at the doorstep and seal the baggage for secure delivery to the airport. Live updates and digital airline baggage tags will enable passengers to keep an eye on their bags movements. The solution will also mean passengers can travel bag-free to the airport and bypass the check-in and baggage drop at the airport, proceeding instead directly to security. The solution also streamlines the last leg of passengers’ journeys, allowing them to skip baggage reclaim altogether by digitally submitting an eDeclaration to have their bags cleared through customs and delivered to their destination within hours of landing.

While off-airport processing facilitates truly contactless airport journeys, it also creates value for distribution partners by generating new ancillary revenue streams. And for operators it increases the throughput of existing airport infrastructure by reducing passenger interactions, queues and resource requirements. With 66% of Airportr users switching from car usage to public transport as a result of travelling baggage free it also has a positive sustainability impact.

“The partnership with Swissport is a significant milestone – it outlines a blueprint and scalable platform for the introduction of smart baggage solutions across the aviation industry,” said Randel Darby, CEO and Founder at AirPortr. “With Swissport, we are transforming baggage from a customer and cost pain point into a new revenue stream, increasing handling efficiency and improving the passenger experience.”

The first deployment will launch imminently and will be facilitated by a market strategy that will enable AirPortr to deploy rapidly, making the product available across airline client networks.

Bruno Stefani, SVP and MD for Switzerland and France added: “Swissport strives to continuously enhance its service quality. We want to generate added value for airlines and their passengers in order to offer a simpler and even more enjoyable travel experience in the future. AirPortr’s platform, as well as our global network and existing airline customer relationships, enable an end-to-end solution and user experience for passengers. The complexity of baggage handling will be transformed through user-friendly, intuitive and scalable solutions into a customer-centric service for passengers, allowing the to personalise ancillary services according to their individual needs.”

London Southend partners with Smiths Detection to unveil new baggage x-ray machines

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With air travel continuing to rebound London Southend Airport has invested in two new baggage x-ray machines which together are capable of processing up to 3,600 bags every hour.

The airport recently unveiled a new trial lane within security which allows passengers to leave liquids and laptops within bags taken onboard their flight. Developed by Smiths Detection, the Hi-SCAN 10080 XCT x-ray scanning equipment offers a next generation high speed checked baggage system. Data generated from baggage passing through the system provides the highest resolution images possible to optimise detection performance while also offering 3D technology. Each machine can process up to 1,800 bags per hour.

Robson were contracted to supply the conveyor system as well as local businesses to complete the installation.

“As travel restrictions ease, so too will passenger confidence and demand,” said Glyn Jones, CEO, London Southend Airport. “We believe the airport has a bright future and continue to invest to bring local economic benefits, from connectivity to employment. The new hold bag system will ensure efficiency when processing passengers bags onto flights whilst maximising security via new x-ray screening technology.”

Meanwhile, Richard Thompson, Global Director for Aviation at Smiths Detection added: “We are delighted that London Southend Airport chose us as their partner to deploy the latest and highest specification security screening equipment. These systems will provide operational efficiencies and passenger experience improvements behind the scenes, all of which will be invaluable both as air travel picks up and many years into the future.”

Siemens Baggage 360 uses AI to provide airports with real-time flow forecasting

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Airports, airlines and ground handlers can now benefit from Siemens Logistics’ new version of its baggage handling and airport operations software Baggage 360.

The software provides real-time baggage flow forecasting, an interactive map of all airfield movements and a resource planning and simulation tool, thus enabling airport stakeholders too plan and allocate their fixed, mobile and human resources optimally.

Baggage 360 also leverages cloud technology to offer more than IoT functionalities and predictions driven by artificial intelligence (AI). It consists of a suite of applications to ensure seamless operations. Forecasting functions utilise advance AI and machine learning algorithms to anticipate expected baggage volumes for the next 24 hours and pinpoint potential bottlenecks or malfunctions. For example the resource planning tool can be used to change a flight’s make-up or laterals assignment to shorten baggage journey time.

“The new release of Baggage 360 is an important step toward a digital twin for baggage handling processes,” says Michael Reichle, CEO of Siemens Logistics. “The virtual representation of real-time operations helps airports to monitor and manage processes remotely and intuitively. Our pilot customers were impressed by how additional functionalities increased their operational efficiency.”

With airport stakeholders subject to high costs and time constraints, particularly following the global pandemic, the need to scale processes in line with passenger and baggage fluctuations is a challenge as the industry continues to recover.

As part of a pilot, Baggage 360 improved the average end-to-end travel times by nine minutes through smarter planning and allocation of laterals, the points at which ground handlers feed the baggage handling system with transfer bags. Furthermore, on a single day, Baggage 360 contributed to 22% fewer left-behind bags.

Baggage 360 is based on MindSphere, the open IoT operating systems from Siemens. It connects real-world processes and machines with the digital world of data analytics and apps. It can be implemented at any airport – regardless of size or the operating system in use. The apps are highly scalable, allowing businesses to access more features and services as they grow.

New baggage transfer solution enhances passenger journey

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Technology and services company, Air Black Box, has launched a new baggage transfer solution called ThruBag to help airlines and connection airports provide through baggage service for self-connecting passengers.

ThruBag enables self-connecting passengers to check their baggage to their final destination airport and avoid the hassle of rechecking luggage at connecting airports.

While traditional airport and airline baggage processes only work for legacy itineraries where all flights are on the same ticket, ThruBag replicates the convenience of through-checked interline baggage, even for those not travelling on legacy interline itineraries. The connecting-baggage solution is available to self-connecting passengers, as well as all kinds of airlines, including low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers. It is designed for easy deployment across airports and airlines alike, with no need to change underlying systems.

Until now, checked baggage has proven an obstacle for self-connecting passengers. According to OAG, 58% of air travellers are aware of options to self-connect their flight itineraries, but only 40% of those travellers have self-connected. They have had to reclaim their checked bags at their connecting airport and recheck them for their onward flight. Subsequently they have to go through the security checkpoint again and if flying internationally, must also clear customs and immigration.

“This is really a solution whose time has come, and that’s demonstrated by the level of interest we are seeing from airports and airlines worldwide who want to gain a competitive advantage using ThruBag,” said Patrick Edmond, Chief Commercial Officer of Air Black Box. “We’re confident that ThruBag will help our airport partners to position themselves as attractive connecting hubs, while airlines can increase passenger satisfaction and choice, and that means more revenue for both airports and airlines,” he added.

Siemens launches ‘first of its kind’ baggage sorting technology

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German technology powerhouse, Siemens Logistics has unveiled its new belt conveyor VarioBelt TilterPlus with an unparalleled tilting device for efficient transport of baggage at airports.

Offering a highly functional mechanism capable of conveying baggage straight ahead as well as to the left and the right with just one sorting device, the VarioBelt TilterPlus requires significantly less machines for a baggage handling system, which in turn means a smaller footprint.

“We support our customers with the most modern solutions for smooth business processes,” said Michael Reichle, CEO of Siemens Logistics. “VarioBelt TilterPlus is a groundbreaking product that makes baggage handling with belt conveyors even more flexible – for both regional airports and international hubs.”

By enabling airport operators to make use of modular expansion of their systems, Siemens’ new solution means airports can adapt their baggage handling system according to varying passenger volumes as required. In addition, VarioBelt TilterPlus offers different individual layout configurations. Connectivity solutions at 90, 45 and 0 degrees without implementing curves are possible to the connecting conveyor, which allows customers to make optimal use of their space.

And thanks to its modular structure, VarioBelt TilterPlus is easy to maintain. Components such as the drive drums, motors, and pulleys can be exchanged in a short amount of time and are compatible with the Siemens VarioBelt conveyor system. Airports that already employ this technology can use the spare parts they have on hand for VarioBelt TilterPlus.

New smart security trays set to revolutionise airport experience

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A London-based tech start-up UtterBerry has developed innovative technology with backing from the Department for Transport and the Home Office to revolutionise the airport experience by creating smart security trays.

UtterBerry is already in advanced talks with major UK airports to roll out the technology from next year, following keen interest from Northern European and Far Eastern countries for the smart trays. It began developing the technology in July 2020 as part of Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS) programme – a joint initiative between the UK’s Department for Transport and the Home Office.

Using blockchain technology, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and miniaturising hardware for the trays, UtterBerry’s technology can provide a real-time interface to show an overview of the trays in use at a security channel, and basic information on passengers that are being checked. The interface also provides analysis of passenger throughput and contributing factors to delays, such as time of year, weather and flights times. The integration of the X-ray operatives interface, also means that passenger information can also be displayed on the baggage inspection monitors. The data collected from the smart tray system can also predict passenger numbers, meaning staffing levels can be managed more efficiently.

It works by using a passenger with a smart car, which stores their basic details and flight information, or alternatively, a mobile app can be used. A smart card reader on the tray then allows the passenger to link their belongings to the UtterBerry smart tray. When a passenger interacts with the device, an LED will indicate the state of the tray via red, blue and green signals. Power is transferred to the tray via wireless charging when stacked in a tray return system, enabling the UtterBerry smart trays to run for long durations without maintenance or downtime.

While improved baggage handling technology has already led to a 47% fall in airline baggage losses over the past decade to 24.8 million. According to UtterBerry, its development will lower that number even further by providing a link between passenger, tray and baggage during the security part of the experience.

“We have been thrilled to work on this innovative project, providing a revolutionary security enhancement solution within airports without hindering passenger experiences,” said UtterBerry Founder and CEO, Heba Bevan.

“The UtterBerry team worked hard to ensure we maintained time scales to deliver this project despite the issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We hope this new technology will be adopted within as many airports as possible.”

Acknowledging how the technology was developed with the help of government funding, he also underlined that “working with HM Government has ensured we have remained within the necessary guidelines to offer the safest, most streamlined solution. Their feedback and guidance has been of great value to UtterBerry, and for that we are very thankful.”

Aviation Minister, Robert Courts MP added: “It’s my ambition for the UK to be the best place in the world for aviation and technology, and improving passenger experiences when travelling will help us achieve this.

“UtterBerry’s work to enhance security trays, will not only increase security at the border but make airport checks quicker and easier for passengers.”

Are regional airports set for a post-pandemic surge of passengers?

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With domestic air travel in bigger markets such as the United States the first to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, regional airports are set to play an outsized role in the coming years, according to David Lavorel, CEO, SITA at Airports and Borders. The question is, he says, are they prepared for a surge of passengers?

As air travel ground to a halt in April last year, regional airports were as hard hit as their international counterparts with near-stagnant passenger and flight activity levels. But as we emerge from the crisis and operations normalize, these airports are expected to recover faster than their larger peers. And with that, they will once again face the same landside and airside capacity constraints they were experiencing in pre-COVID times but with the added challenge of managing new COVID-era health requirements.

Changing populations and remote workers

Several factors are at play in the rapid recovery for regional airports. Ramping up the pressure will be inward migration from the bigger cities due to the pandemic’s influence on population movement. With work less tied to the office, the lure of the big city is losing its appeal. For many remote workers, moving away from major urban areas becomes a distinct possibility as the everyday commute to the office fades into the distant past. A Gallup Poll early in the pandemic found nearly seven in 10 employees in the US to be working remotely all or part of the time. Similarly, Gensler Research Institute’s City Pulse Survey revealed a spike in popularity of second-tier cities, with one in four London and New York respondents considering moving to smaller, less populated areas.

Another factor is that with constantly changing entry and health requirements around the world, passengers will increasingly pivot from long-haul and business travel to domestic leisure travel, fueled by the pent-up demand from travelers seeking a break.

The future is about lower costs, efficiencies, and better ways of working

In the face of these profound changes, regional airports will need to adjust their strategies to address the post-pandemic environment. Like bigger airports, regional airports will need to consider a digital shift to cope with future capacity constraints.

Passenger and airline expectations

Passengers traveling from regional airports are also demanding the same digital experience and efficiencies they receive at international hubs. On top of that come greater airline expectations, route volatility, space constraints, staff multi-tasking, and a myriad more. Then, of course, as journeys become more digital, there’s the growing need for seamless interoperation across travel systems and technologies – not just among airports large and small, but also with other modes of transport.

The cloud: making the digital journey accessible

From our experience in digitizing the industry – before and during the pandemic – we see common issues facing highly cost-conscious regional airports, with a desire to be able to fund the types of smart digital ways of working found in larger airports.

The good news is that cloud technology makes the digital journey and cutting-edge IT affordable and accessible for regional airports. With leading passenger processing capabilities accessible via the cloud, airports can enable shared common-use approaches in the most cost-effective way, saving on infrastructure, space, and maintenance. Not only that, they’re well placed to embrace further capabilities as they choose, such as self-boarding, self-bag drop, off-airport processing, and more.

For example, available now, our own SITA Flex brings leading cloud-based passenger processing capabilities acting as the enabler of the digital passenger experience, based on safe and healthy low-touch, contactless and self-service journeys from check-in to boarding. Airlines get the ability to enable passengers to use their mobiles to have a near walk-through, touchless airport experience, while airport workforces can use mobile devices to coordinate and perform tasks efficiently.

It’s also important to have ready-to-go cloud-based (SaaS) airport management capabilities to help optimize resources while supporting collaborative processes and decision-making. Talking to our airport customers about their needs for operational flexibility, we have solutions providing digital ways to manage capacity challenges better, keeping a proactive eye on passenger flow and disruptions.

Best in class baggage and airport management IT

One of the biggest demands we see is for cost-effective access to best-in-class baggage and airport management systems. SITA recently launched a simple, scalable, and more affordable version of our leading baggage reconciliation system, SITA Bag Manager, that allows smaller airports to reduce the number of mishandled bags by up to 20% by automating the typically manual process of reconciliation. They can also shore up dwindling revenue; an airport that processes 4 million bags per year could generate approximately $100,000 over the course of five years by implementing SITA Bag Manager Lite.

Beyond that, we’re working with regional airports to introduce the most advanced flight information display systems along with simple operational messaging and network capabilities – as already used by hundreds of airports in all corners of the globe.

Let’s be prepared

What’s clear from our conversations with regional airports is that as they look to a new operating environment, they want to be prepared for the changes coming and a return to capacity. With more scalable technology available, they now have the ability to deliver the same experience to their airlines and passengers as they would as major hubs.