“The advantages are pretty clear; in the case of airlines that really thrive on seasonality, they can’t afford to invest every year in installing a piece of hardware, or installing it once and maintaining it throughout the year.
“A CUPPS platform will allow carriers to have shared access to common resources; and a pay-as-you-go model with the airport, who would essentially be the owners of that equipment.”
In terms of CUPPS certification for use, Vajjhala relates that standards have been published regarding the CUPPS platform, which defines how it should behave in relationship to a carrier’s application, and also how it behaves in relation to the devices that it connects to.
“CUPPS defines the standard for airline operations as well as for peripheral devices (boarding pass printers, readers, etc…),” says Vajjhala. “As a testing entity it is our job to come in and test a provider’s CUPPS platform so that we can make sure it is compliant with the requirements laid out by the CUPPS standard.”
“I think CUPPS’ capability to provide new functionality, such as biometrics, will proceed in stages,” says Vajjhala. “I see first the expansion of CUPPS to more and more air carriers. Once you start seeing more common usage at airports, beginning with tier one airports, then to tier two and three — it will percolate down to off-airport locations, beginning with at the very least the rental car locations and maybe nearby gas stations and so on.
“Passport scanning and passport readers will probably come before any extensive biometric capabilities.”
With regard to paperless travel and barcode boarding passes, Mayer says the trend is here to stay.
“We are almost on track to get rid of all magstripe (magnetic stripe) boarding passes by the end of 2010 for IATA members,” says Mayer.
“I think some 60 to 70 percent of those member airports are barcode-boarding pass capable. We are moving forward with this; it drives costs out of the overall process. Barcodes can be used for various functions including access control; there is a multiple-use functionality to barcodes, and it is being embraced by the passengers.”
And it’s cheaper, comments Mayer, because there isn’t that expense for peripheral devices to print magstripe boarding passes. “There has been a very positive response from the industry, both airlines and airports, to quickly adopt it,” she says.
As industry continues to move from magstripe to barcode boarding, the next step will be moving that barcode to mobile devices, remarks Mayer, adding that there are already 12 countries around the world that accept boarding barcodes presented with a mobile device.
“The mobile side of it is the next technological innovation to watch for because it will have a big influence on the industry,” says Mayer.
As CUPPS grows, airports would be the primary procurer of the equipment, says Vajjhala. Airlines then would pay a fee determined by their usage of that equipment.
The biggest challenge is migrating from CUTE technology to CUPPS, says Vajjhala. “The other thing that we need to watch for in the initial stages of that transition is data security and the electronic transfer of passenger lists; does that responsibility remain with the airline, or is it now a function of CUPPS, and thus an airport responsibility?” he asks.
From a long-term standpoint, “You will find newer devices coming into play allowing us to embrace new functionality, and there will be new demands from the passenger,” comments Vajjhala.
“Since CUPPS is going to be basically a society-driven initiative, will it be able to react as quickly to the demands of the traveler and of the airline?” asks Vajjhala. “That will be something to watch for concerning the long-term sustainability of CUPPS.”
The only question that remains, says Vajjhala, is will airlines see CUPPS as something that will take away from a carrier’s potential competitive advantage over another because they are utilizing a common platform with common functionality across the board?
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