As the aviation industry has become more connected, and as the complexity of aviation IT networks, infrastructure, and systems has risen exponentially, IT systems and applications have taken an increasingly outsized role in the operations of airlines and airports. This complexity is only exacerbated by the need to integrate and share data between systems to improve communication and increase efficiency across the connected aviation ecosystem.
And this increased complexity comes at a time when airlines and airports are at the busiest they’ve been in years, with post-pandemic travel reaching new heights along with staffing and resource shortages. In this environment, managing and maintaining an airline or airport’s IT portfolio – including its systems and infrastructure – can be a daunting task. Luckily, the availability of IT managed services could remove some of the burden on airlines and airports and enable them to focus on what they know best – serving internal customers and passengers.
To learn more about the benefits of IT managed services and why airports and airlines would want to use a third-party IT resource instead of building their own, dedicated IT workforce, we sat down with Diogo Gonçalves, the Sr. Manager of Field Service Engineering, Latin America, and Jimmy Aw, the Head of Managed Services, Asia Pacific, at Collins Aerospace’s ARINC Managed Services (AMS).
Connected Aviation Today (CAT): What types of managed IT services are available to airlines and airports?
Diogo Gonçalves: There are a number of IT managed service providers that deliver operations, maintenance, and staffing support to airports. These providers help airports with IT installation, maintenance, and support projects for numerous IT systems, applications, and infrastructure – including passenger processing systems, overall IT infrastructure, communication technologies, data management, and airport operations systems.
Many of these service providers will also perform change management, consumables provision, and a full package of incident management services. This can include operating the service desk, providing preventive and corrective maintenance, conducting root cause analysis, establishing an escalation matrix, and creating service and incident reports.
Jimmy Aw: A managed IT service provider could also function as the airport’s corporate IT support arm – providing support for their corporate PCs, mobile devices, and other endpoints and peripherals both within and outside of the airport.
And a managed IT service provider can also be a scalable labor resource meaning that if an airport needs more staff on a short-term basis, the provider could scale up the labor to meet that requirement.
CAT: You mentioned passenger processing systems and airport operations systems. Are there a lot of these systems in use at airports? Can you give some examples?
Diogo Gonçalves: There are more systems and applications necessary to keep airports running smoothly than people might realize. For example, just processing passengers – getting them checked in and through security, getting their luggage processed, and getting them onto their aircraft – involves systems such as a common-use check-in platform, self-service kiosks, and bag drop units.
But there are many other IT systems and applications that are needed for the operation of an airport that don’t involve the processing of passengers as well. These airport operations systems can include the airport’s resource management system, flight information system, public announcement system, and pre-security system.
CAT: What different capabilities or solutions do these managed services deliver to airlines and airports? What benefit does the airport get out of working with an IT managed services provider?
Diogo Gonçalves: IT managed service providers can give airports and airlines the expert assistance, tools, and technologies necessary to maximize the uptime and productivity of their workforce, allowing them to stay focused on business growth and stay ahead of their competition.
These IT managed service providers give airlines and airports a single point of contact to resolve their IT incidents and issues, along with rapid response times and high service standards. They provide a service desk that is tailored to the organization’s specific needs and requirements while helping them lower costs, improve end-user satisfaction, and attain superior service levels.
“Managing maintenance costs, vendor requirements, and system stability demands requires time and expertise. A managed IT service provider can deliver that to airports and airlines.” — Diogo Gonçalves
There are multiple benefits to working with an IT managed service provider. They off-load the airport or airline’s day-to-day IT distractions. This enables them to shift their focus to the things that make a real difference to their business.
Even more exciting, should those managed services be delivered by a company with its own ecosystem of industry-leading connected aviation systems and solutions, they can offer these solutions to their customers as well. Managing maintenance costs, vendor requirements, and system stability demands requires time and expertise. A managed IT service provider can deliver that to airports and airlines.
CAT: What is the alternative to managed IT services? Can airlines and airports get these capabilities and services from in-house IT teams?
Diogo Gonçalves: There are a few different alternatives to managed IT services for airlines and airports. The decision to opt for self-management or a third-party IT company is usually driven by finances. Interestingly, using self-management may not actually reduce costs or increase operational efficiency because high in-house IT staff turnover and continuous training of new personnel can divert attention away from the operation.
Managed IT services provide airlines and airports with some significant benefits over the alternatives. Having a managed services provider for IT support and services gives the airline or airport a team with critical domain knowledge of airport systems. And, if the managed IT service provider is a global organization, it can leverage its experience at airports all over the world to facilitate to effectively identify global trends that can impact airline and airport customers.
In that case, the managed service providers can end up acting as both an IT company and a guide for emerging aviation technologies.
CAT: Why would an airport choose to purchase managed IT services?
Diogo Gonçalves: Airlines and airports that select IT managed services understand the complexity of IT services in the aviation environment and are looking for a real partner to help navigate those complexities.
“Ongoing maintenance by an IT managed service provider helps airports and airlines to protect the value and lifecycle of equipment such as hardware and peripherals.” — Diogo Goncalves
IT investment is a significant part of an airline or airport’s business. Ongoing maintenance by an IT managed service provider helps airports and airlines to protect the value and lifecycle of equipment such as hardware and peripherals. Hardware-agnostic preventative maintenance, rapid response, and 24/7 IT support mean that airport and airline operations have the ability to run more smoothly.
CAT: What trends are we seeing in commercial aviation that are making managed services like these more important? Digitization? Modernization? Are IT systems more complicated? More ubiquitous? What impact is this having on an airline or airport’s ability to maintain its systems?
Diogo Gonçalves: Many large airports operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For many such airports, the implementation of self-service solutions as baggage and check-in have added many benefits and complexity. Proactive maintenance is increasingly important to ensuring the operational efficiency of the equipment
Airports and airlines are always looking for technologies that increase their operational capabilities. They need an experienced partner with deep expertise in the aviation industry to help them embrace the latest technologies to improve their operational efficiency and enable them to do more with fewer resources.
Jimmy Aw: That lack of resources and increased complexity is why it’s essential for airlines and airports to seek out an IT service provider partner that leverages the latest in aviation digitization and modernization tools. This can ensure that the service provider is identifying and fixing technology failures before they cause operational problems.
“…[the] lack of resources and increased complexity is why it’s essential for airlines and airports to seek out an IT service provider partner that leverages the latest in aviation digitization and modernization tools.” – Jimmy Aw
For example, in the past, manual patrols were necessary to catch hardware failures around the airport – whether that was freezing systems or malfunctioning peripherals. Today, those same managed services teams can leverage active monitoring tools that deliver real-time status updates on hardware and peripherals. These active monitoring tools help the on-site airport or airline workforce, immediately identify failures and resolve issues before the airport or airline—and more importantly—passengers, even notice a problem.
CAT: Why are activities like “project management for roll-outs, upgrades, system installations, moves, adds, and changes” so critical for airlines and airports? Why would they want a managed services provider to assist in these projects?
Diogo Gonçalves: It’s important that these projects go smoothly because they can create service interruptions for multiple stakeholders. The common-use check-in systems enable the same installed infrastructure to serve different stakeholders within the same airport. Because of the nature of this infrastructure, a service interruption affecting a single check-in counter can cause an operational impact on more than one airline or flight.
Having a specialized team that has deep knowledge and experience with these systems can ensure that these projects run smoothly and seamlessly, minimizing service interruptions that could impact multiple airlines.
Jimmy Aw: I agree with Diogo completely. And this is something that Collins Aerospace’s Managed Services team really specializes in. We manage these system roll-outs and installations every day. Because we do this work all of the time, we are typically able to do it faster and cheaper than anyone else.