CVG’s Chief Innovation Officer Brian Cobb Explains How Harnessing the Power of the Cloud Helped Reinvent the Airport


To more efficiently process passengers and deliver a seamless and modernized passenger experience, many airports are moving towards cloud-based solutions as a key part of their operational strategy. Being able to streamline the check-in process with a cloud-based common use passenger processing solution (CUPPS) is increasing passenger loyalty for both the airport and airlines servicing that airport. It also creates passenger engagement opportunities for vendors in the airport and maximizes operational efficiency, especially for those small and medium-sized airports that face space and cost constraints.

To learn more about how and why cloud adoption in airports is positively affecting members of the aviation ecosystem, the Connected Aviation Today editorial team spoke with Brian Cobb, Chief Innovation Officer at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). Cobb told us about CVG’s recent integration of a cloud solution into its passenger check-in process and how the airport’s unique history has driven it to seek out innovative solutions to manage passenger growth.

Read the CVG Case Study

Here’s what he had to say during our conversation:

Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: Tell us a bit about CVG’s background – the airlines operating there, passengers served by the airport, and their specific needs.

Brian Cobb, Chief Innovation Officer at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Brian Cobb (BC): To give you a clear perspective and really do our evolution justice, I have to bring you back a few years. From the 80s until the early 2000s, we were a major hub for Delta – that was our bread and butter – but after the recession hit, that changed. Our flight activity was reduced drastically, and it really opened our eyes to the vulnerabilities of a partner portfolio lacking in diversity.

The type of passenger we were servicing was very homogenous too, with about 80 percent of our traffic being connections and only about 20 percent being OND (origin and destination). That doesn’t necessarily open the door for growth as a medium-sized airport. We knew we had to reinvent ourselves to get back in the game.

Fast forward to about 2010: our new strategic plan was propelled largely by the mission of engaging with low-cost carriers (LCCs) in ways we hadn’t before, while simultaneously re-growing our business with legacy carriers like Delta. Here we are nine years later, and we’ll be hitting our goal of 9 million passengers a full two years earlier than projected.

We are now the fastest growing major U.S. airport for passenger and cargo for all of 2017 and 2018. That OND volume has increased from 20 percent to over 92 percent. It’s safe to say that our operations and the types of passengers we’re servicing have experienced a complete 180 in the last decade.

We’ve been able to forge relationships with LCCs like Frontier, Allegiant, and Southwest, all of whom are seeing huge growth in their numbers from our airport. Our traction with legacy carriers is also on the rise again, all in response to our explosive growth.

CAT Editors: How is the migration to the cloud improving CVG’s operations as a growing airport?

BC: With that dramatic growth, we needed a cloud solution that could mitigate resulting issues like long queues and general congestion. ULCCs in particular are not known for their adoption of self-service solutions like check-in kiosks and self-bag drop, so their growing presence directly resulted in increased wait-times at check-in. This is where the move to the cloud comes in.

By solving this problem, both the airlines’ and the airport’s brand stand to benefit – fewer, shorter lines equal happier passengers. Cloud solutions allows us to start tackling the issue quickly, and processing passengers with more flexibility than we’ve ever had. That agility is invaluable when looking at leveling-up the PaxEx in an airport. It’s a new world order and we’ll absolutely embrace it and run with it.

CAT Editors: As CVG migrates to the cloud, what challenges do you foresee?

BC: The largest hurdle is not the migration itself, but the comfort level for people, especially aviation experts who are hyper-conscious about safety, to wrap their head around cloud-based solutions and data security.

Look at European travelers, for example; there’s an entirely different set of implications and responsibilities for their data security under GDPR and PNR mandates. We’re now seeing the same in the U.S. as states mandate their own privacy laws. Ultimately, we’re fighting the outdated mentality that cloud computing isn’t as secure as on-prem. From many airlines, it’s a flat-out “no” when asked about leveraging this technology.

However, that mindset is slowly changing and it’s largely due to efficiency. Even when you look past the proven safety of cloud in this industry, the proof is in the budget numbers. It’s a lot cheaper to move towards CUPPS when you’re comparing its cost to something like an entirely new building that would be necessary to meet volume demands.

CAT Editors: What’s next for CVG? How do you want to see the airport evolve over the next 5 years? 10 years?

BC: I think our next big step is seeing how we can move more processes off-site with the power of the cloud. I think we can really re-define where the traveler begins their journey and bring the process more directly to them, as opposed to forcing them to come to us. I look forward to seeing how CVG and its forward-thinking partners move to implement that approach in years to come.