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São Paulo’s Guarulhos (GRU) Airport

This was something that Brazil needed. This was important for our people and society. There used to be a big difference between us and other airports around Europe and other parts of the world. There is no difference any longer.

Luiz Eduardo Ritzmann, Chief Information Officer, GRU
04 March 2015

New Management called for airport infrastructure and IT systems overhaul

This story begins and ends with significant change. São Paulo’s Guarulhos (GRU) airport – the busiest airport in Latin America – had been managed by the federal government since it was built in 1985. In 2012, as part of the Brazilian government’s privatization program, an operations concession was awarded to a private consortium led by Invepar, a major Brazilian infrastructure holding company, and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which operates nine airports in South Africa. Infraero, the previous entity operating Guarulhos, retained 49% of the ownership, but is not actively engaged in daily airport operations.

The challenge associated with this transformation was enormous. The airport’s infrastructure had been built to handle 30 million passengers per year, and by 2012 it welcomed more than 32 million passengers with a forecasted growth of more than 10% per annum. Landside and airside congestion, coupled with insufficient access to information, contributed to less than optimal operational practices and made it challenging to deliver the best service to all stakeholders. The new consortium’s charter was to mobilize all resources necessary to effectively, safely and securely take over the daily airport operations, build a new international terminal, drive improvements in both airside and terminal operations, all while operating above planned capacity.

Executing these monumental changes was made exponentially more difficult by the compressed timeline GRU had to complete them. Brazil had been named the proud host of both the FIFA World Cup in July 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games. As the major hub in and out of the country for worldwide fans and athletes, GRU had to be ready.

Experience leads to an expert plan

Local experience and global expertise made the difference. SITA has provided GRU with its telecommunications, network connectivity and common use passenger processing solutions for more than 25 years. It has been supporting the Air Transport community in Brazil for more than 60 years.

On a global level, SITA has a presence in more than 400 airports, and has been at the forefront of a number of world sporting events, including the South Africa World Cup, as well as the Sydney, Athens, Beijing, and London Olympic Games.

“This existing relationship and world-class experience, coupled with SITA’s experience working in dynamic multi-stakeholder construction environments, gave GRU additional confidence that SITA was the right choice,” said Mauro Pontes, Vice President, SITA Brazil.

“After examining all our options, we decided that SITA had the most extensive air transport industry knowledge,” said Luiz Eduardo Ritzmann, Chief Information Officer, GRU. “That was the differentiator. SITA had the best solutions for us.”

SITA’s approach to overhauling the airport’s IT infrastructure began with defining the system operations roadmap, considering the implications associated with passenger growth forecasts and ensuring the overall scalability of airport systems to meet future demands. Next, SITA led the design of all IT and Communications systems in the new GRU Terminal 3, architecting the linkage back to existing terminals. Finally, SITA defined the program and project management approach to implementing these systems, along with the expansion of the airport’s existing common-use infrastructure, to ensure that the needs of all domestic and international airlines’ baggage and passenger processing requirements were addressed to their satisfaction.

Remarkable results in a compressed timeframe

With the FIFA World Cup approaching, SITA had just over a year to deliver the solution, and did so in the middle of an active construction site. SITA demonstrated its unique program and system integration capability throughout this project.

“Project teams must understand the implication of ‘transforming at the speed of change',’” said Mark Gallagher, Vice President, SITA Airport Solution Line. “The science of program success is embedded in your ability to proactively forecast and mitigate schedule compliance risk. The art of program success hinges on your ability to appreciate the impact and velocity of change on all stakeholders. Inexperience in the arts and sciences of delivering IT projects in an airport construction environment will result in unavoidable delays and cost overruns.”

Despite weather, schedule delays and multiple unplanned but anticipated disruptions, the IT transformation plan was delivered on time and generated the following results:

  • The airport handled 39.5 million passengers in 2014
  • 95% of the 830 daily aircraft movements are now automated
  • Check-in allocation time has decreased from 1 hour to 5 minutes

Moving forward with great potential

GRU is now a much different airport than it was just a few years ago, and passengers both in-country and around the world have taken notice.

“This was something that Brazil needed. This was important for our people and society,” says Ritzmann. “There used to be a big difference between us and other airports around Europe and other parts of the world. There is no difference any longer."

SITA solutions

To complete this reinvention of GRU, SITA deployed and integrated a number of solutions throughout the airport including:

  • Airport MSI (Master System Integration), which takes responsibility for the production, design, supply delivery, and integration of the passenger terminal IT and telecoms technology to help optimize the rapidity and efficiency of all airport processes.
  • AirportConnect Open Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE)/Common Use Passenger Processing System (CUPPS) and AirportConnect Kiosk Common Use Self-Service (CUSS).
  • BagManager, which provides industry-leading functionality for loading, reconciling, tracking, tracing, and managing baggage operations.
  • Airport Management Solution (AMS) including AirportCentral (AODB), AirportResource Manager(RMS), AirportVision (FIDS), and AirportVoice (Automated Passenger Announcement System– PAS). AMS is a core component of the Airport Operations and Control Centre (AOCC) that helps GRU to efficiently and effectively manage the entire airport operation.

Related solutions & services

Airport Management

Integrated operations management system

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Airport MSI

Technology integration for new airports and terminals

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