It’s in the design – Master System Integration

It’s in the design – Master System Integration

It’s in the design – Master System Integration

With terminal and airport construction booming, it's vital to think about technology at the outset. Enter master system integration, as deployed at Brazil's São Paulo's Guarulhos (GRU) Airport, Livingstone's Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (Zambia) and the airports of Azerbaijan-Baku and Dublin.

Airport master systems integration

As airports rely more on technology, it makes sense to plan early for IT in any new terminal or airport constructions.

Not just for the short and medium-term but as a way of future-proofing new airport environments so they can cope with ever rising passenger numbers and expectations. 

This upfront planning for IT has never been so critical, given technology’s all-pervasive role in creating intelligent airports. And with booming construction as the industry expands hub airports, develops new markets and upgrades infrastructure, it’s clearly becoming a top-of-mind business imperative to tackle IT at the early design stages. CAPA values airport projects currently in progress globally at around US$ 385 billion.

Efficiency catalyst

Even so, as the industry undertakes the complex task of building new airport terminals, IT can sometimes be a late or even last minute consideration in construction programs.

That’s despite the central role IT plays in transforming airports from simply providing space for airlines to land and take off, to being the massive commercial operations that we see today.

“An airport’s integrated technology has become the essential underpinning of today’s modern, efficient, and profitable airport operation,” says Ned Macesic, Vice President, Airport Business Development at SITA.

“IT has proven its role as an ‘efficiency catalyst’ – capable of uprooting airport processes, transforming operations and delivering whole new levels of experience to passengers.

“In fact, it’s impacting every key metric of airport operations from passenger and baggage throughput, to aircraft turnaround times, through to the whole passenger experience.

Advances at Baku Airport

The new SITA systems incorporate the industry's most advanced technology, and align with all IATA recommendations as well as the latest industry trends. 

Jahangir Askerov, President, AZAL Airlines

20% Rise

 “Airports need a robust and reliable IT infrastructure to bear the increasingly heavy workload. Estimates are that IT can bring a 20% increase in airport throughput above and beyond investment in bricks and mortar. That’s why we’re seeing increasing IT investment,” he says.

According to SITA’s Airport IT Trends Survey 2014, most of that airport IT investment goes on improving the passenger experience (68%), followed by reducing the cost of business operations (39%).

These investments aim to speed up passenger check-in and boarding, optimize aircraft servicing and loading, embrace digitally ‘connected passengers’, create a personalized airside retail experience, and more.


“For airport operators, the construction boom provides a great opportunity to deploy the latest airport technology at the outset,” says Macesic.

“It makes economic sense to address not just the immediate needs, but also the future needs of the airport and its tenants at the design and construction phase, otherwise there can be disruptive and costly consequences.”

Those consequences of retrofitting modern technology into an existing terminal are leading many airports old and new to consider Airport Master Systems Integration (MSI).

Airport MSI helps airport operators minimize the business risk of delays in airport construction. SITA’s Airport MSI incorporates a full range of airport technology. On top of that it includes program management capabilities, bringing together all the technology suppliers into a single program of works as part of the construction contractor’s master building plan.


 “This guarantees an end-to-end integrated approach and helps reduce delays, a not uncommon feature of the complex task of modern terminal construction,” adds Macesic.

“It explains why, at SITA, we’re seeing a stronger collaboration between architects and IT specialists. It’s reached the point where running a modern airport efficiently is so reliant on technology that choosing the right partner for the role of Master Systems Integrator has become a critical success factor.


The Airport MSI payback can’t be ignored. It’s been shown to allow airports to access new capacity on average six months earlier than expected and to mitigate the risk of a typical US$1 million run rate a day that delays can cost construction companies. That’s not even taking into account the costs and hassle of retrofitting.

“There’s a significant cost-benefit to be realized by deploying IT into a terminal while it’s being constructed,” says Macesic. “It’s why we find at SITA that more and more we’re being brought in at the early stages of terminal design to ensure an integrated approach to IT infrastructure.”

GRU conquers challenges

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

MSI in action

Recent examples include Azerbaijan’s Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport, for which SITA provided technology integration and consulting for a new terminal.

Its aim was to make world class IT services an integral part of the infrastructure for the terminal’s completion in 2014, to support passenger processing and airport operations.

SITA deployed a common network infrastructure across the terminal. A single IT platform makes integrating the different airport systems easier, allowing collaboration between many different stakeholders and boosting efficiency.

Macesic again: “Such has become the complexity of integrating the different technologies that just managing all the different vendors has become a critical role. At the new terminal at Dublin Airport, for example, 14 different suppliers and their different technologies needed to be deployed and fit for purpose from day one.”

Transformation agenda

“But such airports often have another thing in common too,” he adds. “Their use of MSI comes as part of major transformational programs. That’s certainly been the case at Azerbaijan and Dublin. It’s also the case at another airport SITA works closely with, Brazil’s São Paulo’s Guarulhos (GRU) Airport.”

With airport privatization, ever increasing congestion and the pending 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, GRU needed to transform fast. MSI lay at the crux of its major program (see box).

The success of the project led GRU’s CIO Luiz Eduardo Ritzmann to say: “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.”  

So it is that Airport MSI is increasingly taking its place high on the agenda of airport operators as they embark on the design of transformational new builds. As it does so, MSI will play an ever more vital role in putting into place modern, efficient and intelligent airport operations where collaboration between many different stakeholders becomes second nature.

MSI in brief

SITA's Airport MSI (Master System Integration) addresses both the challenges of specialized airport technology during construction and the ongoing operational goals of a newly-built airport terminal.

SITA's Airport MSI has been developed for both the construction of a new airport terminal and the steady-state operation of new terminal capacity and is engaged by the airport operator at the completion of the design and before the start of construction.

Airport MSI incorporates both a full range of airport technology and the program management capability to deliver an end-to-end integrated solution. In effect through Airport MSI, SITA brings together all the technology suppliers into a single program of works that integrates into (and informs) the construction contractor’s master building plan.

Future proof

One reason why SITA’s Airport MSI capabilities are in demand is that many airports want flexibility and future-proofing. 

Early engagement of a technology partner ensures that standardized systems and processes specifically tailored for air transport can be incorporated at the design phase. SITA specializes in deploying common-use communications and infrastructure.

This lends itself to a ‘plug and play’ approach making it faster to deploy new services and accommodate next generation technologies, such as e-gates, kiosks and bag drop, and beacon technology.

Using standardized systems makes it easier to combine data from the different sources. More airports are beginning to mine this data and use predictive analytics to improve both day-to-day operations and future planning.

Read "the future-proof airport"

The march of MSI

Airports across the world have called upon SITA’s MSI expertise, including Dublin (Ireland), Sabiha Gokcen (Istanbul), Sheremetyevo - Terminal D (Russia), Bogota - T2 (Columbia), Amman (Jordan), Guarulhos (GRU) Airport  (São Paulo), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Livingstone (Zambia). Here are some examples.

GRU conquers enormous challenges

Brazil’s São Paulo’s Guarulhos (GRU) Airport – the busiest airport in Latin America – faced enormous transformation challenges as a newly privatized organization, not least congestion both landside and airside, insufficient information access, and the looming spectacle of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

MSI was integral to its plans, with SITA chosen as technology Master System Integrator. “After examining all our options, we decided that SITA had the most extensive air transport industry knowledge,” said GRU’s CIO Luiz Eduardo Ritzmann.

  • In developing GRU’s IT Master Plan, 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 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.

In completely reinventing GRU, in addition to Airport MSI SITA delivered AirportConnect Open Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE)/Common Use Passenger Processing System (CUPPS), AirportConnect Kiosk Common Use Self-Service (CUSS), AirportConnect Kiosk Common Use Self-Service (CUSS). The solution also included SITA's BagManager, Airport Management Solution (AMS) and a range of other services.

Advances at Azerbaijan-Baku

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 and the airport’s transformation into a hub of the Caucasus region, as host to events like the Eurovision Song Content, World Economic Forum Summit and this year’s inaugural European Games.

The requirement was for modern, integrated solutions to process passengers more quickly and efficiently and to improve operational efficiency. The construction contractor wanted a knowledgeable technology partner to help create the world-class airport terminal and handle third-party technology suppliers.

  • 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.
  • 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.

“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 Jahangir Askerov, President, AZAL Airlines.

Dublin's extensive program

Dublin Airport is the gateway to Ireland and increasingly a hub for transatlantic flights. To cater for future growth, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) initiated a €1.2 billion ‘Transforming Dublin Airport’ program in 2005, managed directly by the DAA.

DAA recognized the vital role IT plays in the smooth operation of modern airports and that they would need a partner which had airport experience and know-how to take responsibility for the design and delivery of the systems. SITA became systems integrator, delivering:

  • Expertise in designing and building the entire IT infrastructure in the airport’s new T2 terminal, launched late in 2010, addressing communications services, passenger processing, baggage and security systems.
  • Managing a complex systems integration project in multivendor environment.
  • Deploying and testing IT systems simultaneously with construction and other work streams.
  • Introducing a US Customs & Border Protection facility, enabling passengers flying to the US to clear immigration and customs before departure.

“It was vital for DAA to select a major systems provider with both the capability in airport IT as well as the capacity to deliver such an extensive program,” said Andrew Murphy, DAA’s Head of IT&T at the time. “It was equally important that this provider could work with DAA to integrate the numerous T2 IT solutions into our campus systems, in line with the DAA IT Strategy.”

Zambia's pressure to deliver

To support tourism development, Zambia’s government  set its sights on modernizing its airport infrastructure. As the tourist capital of Zambia and gateway to the Victoria Falls, Livingstone’s Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport was high on the agenda.

State-owned company Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL), which operates the airport, had ambitious plans to develop a new terminal, runway, apron and lights to increase capacity to one million passengers a year.

  • SITA was contracted to provide MSI on all aspects of technology deployment – leveraging its own technology with best-of-breed third party systems.
  • That included responsibility for the production, design, supply, delivery and integration of special airport systems in the new terminal – comprising systems specific to an airport construction program, addressing  passenger processing, baggage management, airport management, security and airport infrastructure management.

 According to Director Airports Services for ZACL, Mr. Prince Chintimbwe: “The pressure was on for us to deliver with this project.

“We were faced with the tight deadline of the UN World Tourism Organization event and needed to be sure that both construction work on the new terminal and also the IT systems would all be complete and up to the required world class standard. ZACL chose to work with SITA as the only expert partner who could deliver all the technology upgrades our new airport terminal needed on time.”

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