Common Use: A Growing Airport State of Mind

As passenger processing technology continues to evolve, CUPPS takes on a role as a standardized platform for common use implementation


Comments Andrew O’Conner, SITA’s portfolio director of the airport platform product set, “You see a trend, particularly in the domestic situation in the U.S., towards a significant uptick in common use. It was something that perhaps began life in Europe and the Far East where there were constraints for space at airports, and airlines got together to solve that problem by sharing the physical checking and boarding equipment.

“What we’ve seen in recent times is quite a big uptick in a lot of the regional airports in the U.S., really because of the volatility in the airline market — and airports really wanting to be able to use their facilities flexibly and get the best out of their buildings without always building new.

“Likewise, many airlines are seeing the benefits of sharing the costs of outsourcing that equipment. So it’s been kind of a win/win for airports and airlines.”

Built as the platform of the future, CUPPS (common use passenger processing systems) is an overhaul of the common use terminal equipment (CUTE) standard. The CUPPS standard aims at allowing one air carrier application the ability to be run anywhere on any CUPPS providers’ platform.

Says Jim Miller, Denver International Airport’s director of enterprise architecture, “Personally, I am one to stand behind standards. If we don’t define a standard and attempt to adhere to that standard, in the long run it becomes more expensive to maintain.

“Common use as we’ve lived with it for a number of years is a very complex environment, and CUPPS aims to simplify that so the costs in the long run become less.”

Service-oriented architecture

Explains Miller, “When we wanted to deploy a new common use system at the airport, we went to Ultra’s CUSE in part because of its compliance with the CUPPS standard, and because it fit an architecture that we were familiar with.

“At its core, that is fundamentally what an enterprise architecture does … it aligns business needs with a technology solution that can be supported, and hopefully can be multi-purpose.”

Miller built the airport’s first service-oriented architecture (SOA) four years ago. SOA is a flexible set of design principles used during the phases of systems development and integration in computing. A system based on a SOA will package functionality as a suite of interoperable services that can be used within multiple, separate systems from several business domains.

“Years ago, we declared that all systems will communicate with other systems through service-oriented architecture,” relates Miller. “We consider SOA to be a core foundational component of our enterprise architecture.”

Other airports working with SOA include Orlando, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Las Vegas, says Miller.

“When an airport has to deal with so many different systems delivering different services to their business units, and systems that need to share information across the platform and other business units … when you have a very complex environment, particularly at a category X airport like ours ... the day of building a private interface from system A to system B is past; you can’t afford to maintain those.

“With SOA, we own the hub of the spoked wheel in terms of communication technology — any system that we need to use at the airport can subscribe to our data and it can send data to others by producing a service of its own.”

Common use as a philosophy

Remarks Dominic Nessi, deputy executive director and CIO at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), “The whole concept of common use has to start with airport management, and the philosophy of a particular airport.

“At LAX … we have a strange situation here — nine passenger terminals. Some are owned by airlines, some are owned by us, and some are owned by us but managed by an airline consortium.

“The big terminal we own is the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and we have some 42 carriers in there; we do true gate management there.

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