Airports built to last

Early engagement of a technology partner in the design phase of an airport terminal enables a paradigm change in its construction.

Matthys Serfontein, Vice President, Airport Solution Line, SITA

Matthys SerfonteinWe’ve seen a strong collaboration in recent years between architects and IT specialists in new airport and terminal design.

More and more, SITA is being brought in at the very early design stages. This is because of the role technology now plays in providing flexibility for an airport, enabling it to handle the relentless growth in passenger numbers. 

A case in point is SITA involvement in building intelligent airports in Sao Paolo (GRU) as well as Rio de Janeiro.

By starting with a shared infrastructure for check-in and combining it with self-service, airports can move the check-in process off-airport to train stations, hotels or other venues. In turn, this reduces the area needed at the terminal to process passengers.

A design that incorporates a mix between self-service kiosks and traditional counters at the terminal reduces the number of physical counters, which means more floor space can be utilized for retail space.

Intelligence, flexibility

Besides infrastructure, airports can use technology in their operations to remain flexible. Business Intelligence (BI) for both day-to-day operations and future planning uses data from multiple sources for data exploration and predictive analytics, allowing airports to be flexible, proactive and more efficient.

To deliver the data that underpins the intelligent airport, the terminal needs an agile and connected infrastructure that can bring people and systems together. This is best planned at the design stage of any terminal construction or upgrade.

Plug and play

Deploying a single IT infrastructure allows all stakeholders to connect, creating a true shared infrastructure and a ‘plug and play’ tenant-friendly airport that’s more attractive to airlines and concessionaires.

An agile and connected information and communications technology (ICT) platform can easily accommodate current and new technology such as near field communications (NFC) and wearable computing, as well as meeting the demands for connectivity and bandwidths of the new generation aircraft such as A350, B787 and A380.

ICT at design stage

It’s important to incorporate this ICT infrastructure – including structure cabling, server rooms, and so on – into the airport or terminal design.

Bear in mind that advances in cloud technology will mean fewer requirements for the ICT infrastructure to be on-site. It’s here that architects and IT specialists can collaborate to determine the infrastructure that needs to be built, so that you can make capital investment in areas able to generate revenues such as retail, rather than being wasted on unnecessary, on-site, energy-consuming technology.

Very much a part of the future-proof airport, SITA’s ATI Cloud is starting to be deployed by airports worldwide. By centering infrastructure in the Cloud – together with data and services – airports can simply and cost-effectively embrace leading and future-proof IT services. (See '‘A cloudy’ future for airports' below section.)

Paradigm change

Early engagement of a technology partner in the design phase of an airport terminal enables a paradigm change in its construction. The traditional capital program method of ‘design-bid-build’ is now giving way to the ‘design-build’ framework. This emerging method is much more agile, delivering a more cost-effective and accelerated approach to airport terminal capital building programs.

When you consider the heavy reliance on technology in an airport terminal – which is possibly greater than in any other building which is open to the public – the early engagement of a technology partner in a ‘design-build’ framework will become the de facto standard for any modern airport building program.

Future-proof services

SITA offers the broadest portfolio of airport-specific technology solutions, covering all operational areas.

They include:

  • Passenger processing – including self-service, beacons, passenger flow monitoring and analysis, and common use terminals
  • Baggage operations – complete baggage management systems for single or multiple sites, self-service, the industry standard global tracing system
  • Airport operations – complete planning and resource management tools
  • Aircraft operations – end-to-end platform and service integration across business processes
  • Transportation security – combining pre-arrival risk assessment and true identity management for governments, with speed and accuracy
  • Communications & infrastructure – a global IPVPN connecting 95% of airports worldwide, managed LAN and wireless networks across the entire airport footprint
  • Air Transport Industry (ATI) Cloud – agility and flexibility with on-demand services through SITA’s ATI Cloud, connecting 17,000 air transport sites and 15,000 commercial aircraft
  • Airport master systems integration (MSI) – helping design and implement future-proof airport technologies
  • Professional services and operations support – delivering advice on solutions plus round-the-clock global operational and service excellence

A 'cloudy' future for airports

SITA’s Air Transport Industry (ATI) Cloud is playing a key role in underpinning the design of future-proof airports, providing quick and cost effective access to leading infrastructure.

There’s no upfront investment requirement, no space requirement for back-room equipment, no minimum guarantee and costs are incurred per passenger.

Cloud technology is used to cover every element, including hardware, software and support. Even network connectivity can be managed and maintained from cloud data centers.

On top of that, airports are assured of access to the latest software and services – on a flexible basis and as both airport and technology evolve.


It’s not just larger airports embracing cloud. SITA’s many smaller and regional airports customers are deploying cloud to make cutting-edge IT affordable and accessible.

For example, the flexibility and scope of SITA’s cloud offering for regional airports has caught the eye of a growing number of airport administrations across three continents,” says Andrew O’Connor, Portfolio Director for Airport Solutions at SITA.

“There have been several SITA ATI Cloud implementations in airports with many more in the offing.”

Leading the move were two German airports: Allgäu Airport and Sylt Airport. Both show how passengers can be offered the same levels of service they find at international hubs.

It’s clear from their early experiences that many other of the world’s airports will be set to follow.

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