Brazil’s airports transform operations with new technologies
Brazil is the largest country, in terms of size and population, in South America. It boasts rich reserves of minerals, oil and agricultural land and is considered the gateway to South America. However, its transport network has been historically underdeveloped. The World Economic Forum ranks Brazil only 120th out of 144 countries for overall quality of transport infrastructure.
This is partly because Brazil is such a rugged country with over one-third of its area within the Amazon rainforest.
Air transport is essential to connect distant cities as the road and rail infrastructure is generally poor. Recognizing how important the air transport infrastructure is to regional economic development – Brazil has the third largest domestic air travel market in the world - the Brazilian government opened up the airport sector to privatization.
This would allow investment at regional airports and encourage airlines to open up new routes around the country and with international neighbors.
One of the new airport operators is Inframérica, a consortium comprising Argentinian airport operator group Corporation America (CASA) and Infraero. Inframérica won the concession to run two distinctly different airports: Brasilia, which is a major hub and the second busiest airport in Brazil; and Natal, which is a new airport with ambitions to become a northern hub. A key condition of the concessions was that Inframérica introduce common use capabilities that would allow more airlines to use their terminals.
Capital improvement at Brasilia International Airport
Brasilia International Airport is the major hub in central Brazil and gateway to the capital city, which has a population of 2.8 million people. The airport was already operating at capacity and needed more passenger throughput to support the growing economy. Passenger and baggage processing had been limited because the airport had been dominated by leading domestic airline players, which had their own dedicated check-in counters. Introducing common use check-in and baggage processing would allow more flexibility and increase passenger throughput by allowing any airline to use any agent desk, gate position or self-service kiosk for passenger check-in and bag drop.
In 2013, Inframérica contracted SITA to introduce common use technology that would accommodate this growing number of passengers by making check-in and boarding more efficient. The challenge was to design, implement and have the system operational in time for the 2014 World Cup.
“It was essential that we changed the culture about how the space and resources were allocated. Each airline wanted its own dedicated space and to manage their check-in desks as they liked. But this meant there was not enough room to accommodate new airlines. Common use technology allows us to utilize all counters more effectively,” said Roberto Luiz Oliveira, Air Business Manager at Consorcio Inframérica.
By the time the tournament kicked off in June 2014, SITA had installed common use terminal equipment (CUTE) at 83 check-in positions, 35 departure gates and 12 transit areas, along with 34 common use self-service (CUSS) kiosks.
As passenger volumes increase, another 50 CUTE desks and 23 CUSS kiosks will be installed over the next six years.
SITA has also implemented MaestroDCS Local, an automated departure control system supporting the passenger check-in and boarding processes.
Another service introduced to support airlines is AirportHub, a shared network infrastructure including wiring, routers, local access and international connectivity. This is available to all tenants and helps to cut the operational costs of operating out of Brasilia airport. Passengers can also take advantage of the mobile check-in capabilities built into the common platform. A new service will be launched in the future to support airlines operating New Generation Aircraft by providing Gatelink through a shared wireless infrastructure in the TARMAC.
Introducing common use technology has improved on-time performance at the airport, which is a key metric for airlines when they are considering which airports to route to international long-haul carriers.
Brasilia Airport has enjoyed benefits in three areas since introducing common use service:
- Designed to support 24/7 operations so there is less downtime and therefore less delay.
- Common use means that more passengers can be processed within the same footprint.
- Passenger satisfaction rates are high because of the shorter queues and reduced disruption.
Gateway to the north – Natal International Airport
Natal is a remote northerly coastal city of 860,000 inhabitants. Natal’s strategic position means it is a convenient hub destination for carriers from North America and Europe that want to connect with northern cities like Manaus, Fortaleza and Belem. In 2011, Inframérica won a concession to build and operate a 5 million passenger airport in Natal, the first to be privately built and operated in Brazil. Its challenge was to build the new airport and open in time for the 2014 World Cup.
As a key technology partner, SITA was invited to develop and deploy a common-use infrastructure at Natal, and this would need to be designed and installed while the airport terminal was being constructed. The CUTE and CUSS systems had to be implemented, tested and operational in just 6 months.
Common use infrastructure was a key driver in helping maximize the use of the airport space and improve passenger flow during peak hours and also enabled increased flexibility during airport construction by allocating airlines to new areas without disrupting their operations. Thanks to these new capabilities, airlines can better handle their operations such as baggage reconciliation, aircraft maintenance and customer service.
By May 2014, the airport opened with 50 CUTE counters and 12 departure gates along with 10 CUSS kiosks. Like the implementation at Brasilia, the Natal terminal is reliable, highly available and as the infrastructure costs are shared, airlines are more likely to develop new routes to and from that airport.
Enhanced operations, future opportunities
Thanks to SITA’s long experience in delivering on large scale airport transformation projects around the world, Inframérica can look forward to a bright and prosperous future. All solutions were delivered and implemented smoothly and the facilities are now in place to provide passengers traveling to and from Brazil with a world class experience through enhanced in-airport and transit services.