“Terminals 7 and 8 are wholly United Airlines, so there’s no need for common use there. American Airlines owns Terminal 4, so there’s no use for common use there as well.
“It’s not really a technological question; it’s a question the management of an airport has to answer by asking, Where do we want to go with this airport in the future?”
For a lot of smaller airlines, explains Nessi, with common use carriers can move in and out of a market with minimal expense and no need for an IT department or any of the infrastructure like a large carrier such as United or American would have to have.
Adds O’Conner, who has been in the aviation IT sector for some 20 years, “We see a real mix of the newer low-cost carriers and some of the legacy carriers really supporting common use quite strongly.
“There have been examples of several of what might be called ‘legacy’ carriers participating heavily in the new CUPPS standard. It’s been an important enabler for the U.S. carriers, particularly who’ve been forced onto common use via the experience in Europe over the years.”
Remarks Miller, “What holds airports back in this country from deploying more common use isn’t a technology question, it’s a business question.”
Nessi agrees, stating, “Common use changes the entire character of an airport, from finances all the way down to operation, and it’s not a technological decision … it’s a business decision.”
Flexibility and facility control
Says Miller, “I like the idea of enabling the passenger … how airports have the opportunity to capitalize on customer service gaps left by airline cost cutting. We’ve seen that happen for a number of years; we’ve seen that trend.
“The question I have ... is the airport going to step in and fill that gap with the same old stuff, or are we going to bring a technology to that gap that allows us to fill the need more efficiently?
“That’s where I think common use and communication standards come into play — so that when an airline and an airport need to share information ... airports, airlines, and vendors are all going to be sharing a bigger pool of data. It’s all about developing standard formats for exchanging, delivering, and acknowledging data transfer.”
Nessi agrees and says gaining more control over facilities is a trend at airports, but it’s not unanimous by any means. “LAX is an anomaly with all of these different ownership groups and lease arrangements we have,” he adds. “We have so many long-term agreements, we really can’t be entirely common use … unlike Las Vegas, where it is all common use for everything.”
A recommended practice
The CUPPS standard is a ‘recommended practice’, which is the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) standard term for its specifications, says O’Conner.
“What the standard has done, it’s not just a technical standard around the platform itself … it’s also defined a lot of things around the service level, and what the airline can expect when it arrives on site at a new airport,” he explains. “The standard gives carriers a sense of assuredness of what they will find and the service level that will ensue over the coming time on that precise equipment.”
Because CUPPS has been a particularly productive coming together of airlines and airports, the single standard has been good as common use becomes more attractive to airports, comments O’Conner.
In terms of the future, “The work that’s ongoing now is really to encompass the things that should be going on now — like the supporting of devices that will see a changing landscape at the airport, such as the move towards a self-service unattended bag drop for example, and self-boarding gates; all the processes and different ways of handling passengers and the way that passengers are separated from baggage.