Airport operations management

System outages and performance failures can cost airports a pretty penny, not to mention reputation and customer loss. Considering that 2020 was the worst in US airline history due to the COVID-19 outbreak, any further loss, be it money or customers, definitely won’t help airports survive in new realities. But operations management software might.

As a large complex structure, an airport performs many operations simultaneously. So a centralized system makes a lot of sense compared to multiple tools jumbled together. It’s safer, more flexible, and helps airports save their costs.

With 20 years of hands-on experience in software development and consultancy, at Acropolium, we have real-life experience on how to develop an airport operations management system that will drive better results for you. So, in this article, we’ll cover operations software benefits and recent trends, the core functionality to adopt, and the challenges you may face during software implementation.

How airport operations management software helps optimize costs

Airport management software improves operational performance.

Airport management software improves operational performance by using cloud computing, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other technologies. Better performance, in turn, helps airports reduce expenses and improve the efficiency of business processes. These involve:

  • Airside operations related to navigation, landing, traffic, and runway management
  • Landside operations, including all the processes associated with either passenger service (for example, baggage handling) or facilities maintenance (resource and staff allocation for maintaining terminal buildings, parking, and other facilities)
  • Billing and invoicing process, including handling all airport finances such as flight bills, cash, invoices, staff payrolls, commercial sales, and others
  • Information management, including data collection, storage, and distribution

Airport operation management solution development usually means building several modules related to the operations above. These modules are connected through a single database called Airport Operational Database (AODB). The connection establishes data transferring between modules and brings other benefits to the airport and its departments, like:

Remote access with no downtime

Airport aviation management software is primarily cloud-based, so regardless of the location, every authorized user can access the system from any corporation device, be it a desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone. Cloud providers ensure that your system will remain highly available and work without downtime no matter how high the workload is.

Automated notifications and faster response

Software can automatically notify other users when their attention is needed. For example, the system will notify all users in charge that critical changes were made, an error occurred, or data was inconsistent. This results in better collaboration between departments and faster response to dangerous events.

Data transparency and user traceability

Real-time data ensures the most up-to-date information. The system automatically identifies users, tracks their logins and the changes they make. You also have complete control of version history. Whether you want to see how data looked at a specific point in time, review the order of changes, or generate reports for specific data periods, software can do it for you.

Better data accuracy

In aviation, one small mistake in data entry can lead to severe consequences. Manual data entry and handwritten records affect accuracy and can cause misinterpretations. Software either eliminates data entry by integrating it from other data sources or allows users to enter data just once, auto-filling the rest when needed.

Reduced time spent on routine tasks

Software connects different data flows from other devices (through IoT — the Internet of Things) or services (through APIs — Application Programming Interfaces). Let’s take the booking process as an example. Software enables your booking data to flow seamlessly from the website to your system, automatically generating invoices, flight tickets, and reports on the way, no human intervention required. Connected data flows, single data entry, and other automation tools can reduce the time an employee spends on tasks drastically.

Automated plan tracking and scheduling

Software helps airports keep airbase equipment and teams working correctly thanks to the tools for automated plan tracking. Inventory monitors, seasonal scheduling, and aircraft maintenance are just some examples of what your system can automatically schedule so that you could maintain the highest level of operations and services.

Increased airport security and compliance

Cloud deployment ensures that all data is highly encrypted and backed up, reducing the risk of data loss and breaches. On top of that, enhanced data transparency, data access control, user activity tracking, and real-time communication improve airport’s compliance with requirements. These include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), or The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

More accurate prediction analytics

In 2019, flight delays cost airlines and passengers $33 billion that could have been reduced with a more accurate daily flight schedule processing. Using machine learning and AI technologies, modern airport management systems dynamically estimate the time based on statistical data and intelligence-driven planning.

A top-notch system can help you optimize costs by enhancing cooperation between departments, automating routine tasks, and reducing errors. The question is, how to create airport operations management software that will address your woes? Our advice is to start by exploring technology trends. With a focus on current market demands and innovations, you can get software that will work like a charm.

The future of airport operations management

Cloud computing, AI, IoT are the leading trends in airport operation management software development.

Air travel took a big hit by COVID-19: global passenger demand is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels not earlier than 2024. The result? A substantial industry shift toward the digital technologies that allow airports to be more flexible and adapt to sudden changes faster. Let’s take a closer look at the emerging trends in airport software.

Cloud computing

Cloud migration is no longer optional for airports if they want to ensure operational transparency and data reliability. Cloud computing enables real-time updates and ensures system availability, which are crucial for implementing IoT, AI, and machine learning.

Coupled with encryption and blockchain, cloud computing offers one of the highest levels of data security, which is another reason why cloud-based management software is on the rise.

Advanced IoT, AI, and machine learning

Connecting all airport devices through IoT technologies and pairing them with AI allows developers to create complex software with robotic process automation (RPA), virtual agents, chatbots, and business-intelligence analytics.

Prediction analytics is another use case of AI, IoT, and machine learning in airport operations management software. By analyzing real-time forecasts and satellite data, the system can identify turbulence and weather changes, helping airport staff create more flexible and economical flight plans.

Passenger self-service solutions

Aiming to reduce wait time and human interactions, airports invest in developing self-service solutions with embedded touchless and facial recognition technologies. Automated check-in, boarding gates, baggage drop, as well as mobile integration and real-time passenger tracking inside the airport can reshape the boarding process and improve its efficiency.

Along with those listed above, many other trends emerged due to the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, the airport system will likely need to process vaccination visas and identify passenger health risks. If you are about to build a custom airport operations management solution, ensure that it’s flexible enough to adapt to the changing COVID-19 requirements. The next chapter will help you identify what features to start with.

Features of custom airport operations management software

Airport operations management system features vary depending on the airport's needs and size.

Airport operations management system features will vary depending on the needs of a particular airport, its sizes, and related modules. Yet, some functionality is essential for any software, regardless of the module type, quantity, and requirements. Here are the four primary features your software should have.

Real-time communication and multiplatform data exchange

Real-time information exchange is at the core of any airport. Airport delivers critical information to the aircraft, updates passengers about flight schedules, and establishes communication between departments. Management software should handle communication at all levels by displaying and distributing information in multiple formats across various devices and systems, including the radio, instant messaging, telephone, and navigation tools.

Reporting and analytics

Along with data exchange, airport operations software needs to collect, process, analyze, and visualize big data, such as reports from airlines, operators, and aircraft, hourly analytics, routes, and others. Reporting tools coupled with more advanced predictive analysis technologies will help airport staff make more informed and effective decisions.

Ease of using and implementing

Think about how to make an airport operations management solution intuitive so that your managers don’t require lengthy onboarding and training before they start using it. An experienced UX designer will help you design an understandable and user-friendly system. Meanwhile, business-focused development will ensure that the software addresses your goals, doesn’t have redundant features, and seamlessly integrates into the existing workflow.

Security

Airports deal with passenger biometric and financial data, store critical data related to aircraft, timetables, and traffic distribution. So it’s no surprise that over 60% of airports worldwide confirm being targeted by cyberattacks.

To mitigate the risk, your software should granularly visualize network traffic, including workloads, on-premise users, applications, and servers. Consider a multi-cloud environment and divide the entire system into isolated segments (micro-segmentation) to ensure better security management.

Now that you know the fundamental functions, let’s check what other features your software needs to offer, depending on the module type:

Modules by operation typeFunctionality
Airside operations
  • Navigation services
  • Visual signaling and radars
  • Managing CCTV systems and air traffic control
  • Ground handling (boarding and guidance, cargo management, etc.)
  • Handling aircraft guiding, cleaning, catering, and fueling
Landside operations
  • Passenger facilitation functionality
  • Self-service systems
  • Customs and security services, border control
  • Baggage handling
  • Terminal management and monitoring
  • Staff management and monitoring
Billing and invoicing operations
  • Accounting and revenue management
Information management
  • Real-time information display
  • Multi-language support
  • Announcement systems
AODB
  • Seasonal scheduling
  • Reference data processing
  • Daily flight schedule processing
  • Processing of payments

This, of course, isn’t an exhaustive list of features of airport operations management software, but it paints a better picture of what you may need. The best way to decide on the functionality is to consult with a professional team of developers to help you choose the right features according to your project. This will also help you avoid the challenges of software implementation in the future. Let’s explore this topic in more detail.

Challenges of implementing airport operations management software

The main challenges of implementing airport operations management software are strict regulations, lack of resources, and cyberattacks.

Airport operations management solution development can improve operational performance and save you costs. On the other hand, the implementation process has many upsides to go. Here’s the lowdown on the main challenges you may face:

Compliance with a wide range of regulations

Be it terminal maintenance, staff training, or risk management, airport software must meet a long list of requirements that directly affect passengers’ safety and wellbeing. It needs to fully comply with all regulations in place, such as The International Air Transport Association is a trade association (IATA), The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and others.

Besides, the system should enable quality assurance and compliance monitoring, as well as provide high security of communication and navigation.

Integration with other systems and devices

Airports today are data-collecting environments: the number of devices for thermal scanning, real-time safety information delivery, crowd management, and other data processing operations is growing exponentially.

One of the obstacles to implementing a centralized operation management software is the need for its seamless integration with other systems and connection to available devices. This process isn’t easy and requires deep technical expertise from your developers.

Lack of resources

Despite the growing demand for digital solutions and technologies, the industry often falls too far behind due to outdated equipment, the prevalence of manual work, and a lack of investment. More than half of airport IT leaders consider budget reduction their most significant obstacle to building a more secure infrastructure.

Exposure to cybersecurity attacks

New software should provide better data integrity and security with centralized cloud storage. Yet, many enterprises don’t entirely rely on cloud computing and doubt its safety since the data is stored offsite. Though cloud computing may impose some risks, unwillingness to innovate puts the entire airport infrastructure in danger.

The lack of advanced predictive analytics that can detect errors and identify anomalies may be another reason why airport data becomes vulnerable.

For many airports, facing one or several of these challenges is inevitable due to the costly and inefficient software development. But fret not: you can mitigate these risks and get a jumpstart with an expert development team that will create a custom airport operations management solution for you.

How Acropolium can help you develop an airport operations management system

With over 17 years of IT development and consulting in more than 20 industries, Acropolium can become your reliable development partner.

With over 17 years of software development experience and consulting in more than 20 industries, Acropolium is used to meeting rigid requirements while uncovering the full tech potential of the project. Whatever your needs are, you can rely on us: Acropolium is trusted by 150 companies, including those on the Fortune 500 list.

Our real-time communication and location tracking solutions have improved the management and control processes for dozens of clients. The GIS software we produced makes it easier for you to capture and interpret geographical data, even the most complex patterns.

So, what can we do for you?

See any member of your team on the map, set colors to identify their movements, and interactively communicate from different devices while our system is recording every action. Control staff activity in real-time or during selected periods, visualize all departments in one map, or use the map for educating new members. We can do this and much more for your project.

What’s next

Operations management software can help airports adapt to a rapidly changing environment and maintain a high level of services while optimizing costs. However, to take advantage of this software, you need a reliable development partner that will guide you through the entire process, saving you from bottlenecks and ensuring that all your needs are met. Acropolium can become this partner for you.

Whether you need to improve the existing system or create airport operations management software from scratch, contact us to share your ideas or get a consultation.