Air Transport World

Controlling the Airport Data Grid.

Sharing of information remains a touchy subject for airlines

Airport construction and privatization are providing an unmatched opportunity to eliminate duplicate computer systems and integrate information technology. To maximize that opportunity requires new thinking by airport operators and airlines, whose attitudes toward information often conflict. Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok was an IT dream come true. Planners took advantage of its green-field status to design fully integrated IT architecture. Unsurprisingly for such an ambitious project, development lagged, especially for the centralized Flight Information Display System. The airport's debut was postponed once and should have been delayed again. But politics, subtle or otherwise, prevailed and CLK opened last July 6. Primary tenant Cathay Pacific suggests, "Insufficient time and resources were applied to testing the whole system [including the cargo terminal] prior to its opening."

One US airport manager pictures Hong Kong's system as a "super room," a central site with a single database that runs and controls everything. Kuala Lumpur and Seoul have similar concepts. But airlines have not yet surrendered everything. One example: At CLK, Cathay continues to use its own host computer, not the airport's operational database, for passenger processing.

Still, says Kin Barker, head of CDI Communications, "Every airport we've talked to is taking control of infrastructure. They're looking at a campus setup with a common backbone that all systems can run on. That significantly reduces construction costs and infrastructure needs." And that's just for starters. "A common backbone is the first step toward [data] integration."

Chris Serafin, VP-airport operations and customer service for Sabre, says the change results from airports' new environment. "Before, airports earned revenue from landing fees and $5 hotdogs that tasted terrible." Now they compete for airline business and private financing.

During a 1996 ACI computer technology conference, Ad Kramer, Schiphol Airport's information management guru, raised the issue of data ownership. …

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