Azerbaijan’s state-owned airline and airport operator Azerbaijan HAVA Yollari – AZAL tasked SITA with providing technology integration and consulting for a new terminal at the Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport. The terminal would symbolize the country’s increasing economic sophistication. SITA’s challenge was to ensure that world-class IT services to support passenger processing and airport operations were an integral part of the infrastructure when the terminal was completed in 2014.
Azerbaijan sits at the crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe in a region called the Caucasus. Rich in natural and cultural resources and with a booming business sector it is making extensive investments in its air transport infrastructure in order to become the hub of the Caucasus hosting events like the Eurovision Song Content (2012), the World Economic Forum Summit (2013) and the inaugural European Games (2015) which have helped put Baku on the map.
“Azerbaijan is developing, and the number of visitors to our country is always on the rise,” said Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev. “Our economy grew more than three times during the last ten years,” he also told the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in June.
Baku Airport’s existing terminals were not designed for long haul aircraft and were unable to cope with the 5 million Azerbaijan visitors the country expects to attract as its business and tourism sectors expand.
“We need modern, integrated solutions to help us process passengers more quickly and efficiently and improve our operational efficiency,” said Jahangir Askerov, President of AZAL, the national airline.
“AZAL’s main construction contractor for the new terminal, MAPA (part of the MNG Group) needed a knowledgeable technology partner to help create the world-class airport terminal and to handle third-party technology suppliers. SITA was selected on the strength of its long-term partnership with AZAL, which has seen the successful deployment of IT infrastructure at the airport, including the recent introduction of its Passenger iCheck application for self-service kiosks in time for 2012 Eurovision contest,” said Mr. Jawad Dbila, Director of the new Terminal One.
SITA’s extensive role at Baku Airport included best practice consulting and system design, integration of third-party systems, technology deployment and on-going operational support. “We recommended the best possible approach,” said Mike Powell, Program Director for SITA.
Keeping to schedule
Having a great experience in master system integration, SITA worked closely with third-party technology suppliers and the new terminal management company to ensure solutions were installed on schedule without impacting the master building plan.
“A huge amount of our work was coordination,” said Powell. “We had a small team with expertise who could be flexible to ensure project goals, targets and deliver on time.”
SITA coordinated technology-related activities on and off the site, working closely with suppliers to make and execute decisions. The team was required to manage predictable installation challenges that might slow construction. In one example, the team chose to configure and test network switches off site in order to avoid potential delays to the construction schedule.
Drawing on its extensive industry knowledge, SITA provided consulting services on security systems.
To support these technologies SITA deployed a common network infrastructure across the terminal. This puts most airport systems on a single network, boosting operational and integration efficiency and laying a foundation for future technology improvements as the terminal’s needs evolve.
Baku’s old terminal did not have the equipment required to handle AZAL's newly acquired Airbus and Dreamliner fleets. The airline addressed this by installing 12 air bridges designed for long-haul aircraft at Terminal One.
Safegate deployed a new aircraft guidance and docking system in order to support the new bridges and incoming flights. The system enables aircraft to dock with the new air bridges automatically and accurately as well as connecting to airport systems, speeding operational efficiency and boosting passenger safety.
Terminal One needed to provide the modern self-service kiosks and amenities international travelers expect. However, AZAL President Jahangir Askerov insisted technology should be deployed because it was required, rather than for its own sake.
“Building a new airport is a very complex process,” said SITA Account Director, Marina Zviagina. “Our challenge was to help the customer choose the right solutions that would remain modern and not require any development for at least a decade.”
In addition to advising on third party solutions, SITA delivered some of its own technologies to handle airport management, travel information, baggage handling systems, passenger communications and more.
Baku’s Terminal One is now truly international: the long haul carriers already serving Baku make use of the new terminal’s air gates, which, “show Azerbaijan is prepared from the point of view of international standards and safety,” said Powell. This builds the perception of Azerbaijan as a modern destination, which was one of the key aims of the project.
Departing or arriving, travelers can make use of the self-service kiosks that they have already become accustomed to at airports elsewhere to handle check-in and baggage recovery, and enjoy clear travel information in Russian, English and Azeri, which was not available before.
This enables passengers to spend more time exploring the airport’s shops and restaurants, rather than becoming confused and frustrated by unclear signage, language barriers or long queues at check-in. “The new terminal is modern, well-equipped, and well provisioned,” said Zviagina.
Meanwhile state-of-the-art airport management systems make it easier for the terminal to manage passenger and air traffic for better operational efficiencies.
For example, SITA’s shared-use check-in desks and self-service stations can be used by any of the airlines at the airport.
SITA’s success in managing third party technology supplier relationships and in deploying solutions that truly boost airport efficiency and passenger enjoyment have been recognized by AZAL since work ended in 2014.
Now the terminal is operational and SITA’s role shifts to support. A five year contract to maintain all of the technologies it has deployed assures the airport that it will not need to make extensive investment in its own IT sector. SITA also cooperates closely with AZAL in further developing the concept of business intelligence by implementing solutions that help to analyze and manage passenger flows in Terminal One more effectively.
"The new SITA systems incorporate the industry’s most advanced technology, and align with all IATA recommendations as well as the latest industry trends. We appreciate the convenience of dealing with a single supplier, SITA, for all our IT and communications needs and support,” said Askerov.
Heydar Aliyev International Airport’s new terminal and its systems are now equipped to cast the country in a positive new light when handling any future huge influxes of international traffic as the country seeks to host future international events.
SITA's solutions at Baku
SITA designed and delivered a variety of its own airport-focused solutions at Baku’s Terminal One. These include:
Airport Infrastructure Management
Airport’s Local Area Network (LAN) including 3,500 data ports, 100 wireless access points and 500 VoIP
Operations management solution for airports and ground handlers including tools to manage passenger communications (147 large screens displaying up-to-the-minute multilingual flight information have been deployed throughout the terminal), aeronautical billing and reporting, as well as mobile and fixed resources.
Common-use platform enabling airports, airlines and handling agents to access their respective IT
applications in real time, on 66 shared workstations.
AirportConnect Kiosk including Passenger iCheck
12 CUSS (common use self-service) kiosks and their check-in application.
Application providing industry-leading functionality for loading, reconciling, tracking, tracing and managing baggage operations. Baggage handlers can access it via the 20 handheld devices that were also provided.
Global, secure and fully managed baggage messages distribution service.
Enabling passengers to quickly file missing bag reports to the international WorldTracer system developed with IATA in 1991.