Flying high? Why reliable communications underpin effective airport management

/ / Transportation

British Airways (BA) hit the headlines over the recent bank holiday weekend when more than 300,000 passengers were severely delayed due to a catastrophic computing failure. The truth of what actually occurred is still emerging, even several weeks on. While some have blamed the outage on a power surge so powerful that it rendered the back-up system ineffective it has been suggested from various quarters that this only seems to be part of the picture.

Either way, the fallout has served to underline how, in the complex world of 21st century aviation, a single technical problem can rapidly spiral and have a truly enormous impact. Hundreds of thousands of passengers delayed and a subsequent compensation bill that may run into the millions. On top of this there’s the potential for severe reputational damage and the loss of future revenue this can bring.

Multiple stakeholders, multiple challenges

Today’s airports operate hugely complicated communications infrastructures simply in order to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly. When just a single airline experiences a problem like this – and that problem may be entirely out of the airport’s hands – it has a huge knock-on effect on the ground. Thousands more passengers than usual suddenly have to be accommodated, helped and kept informed. Staff fall under even greater than usual pressure to keep planes and passengers moving and to manage stressful and even volatile situations. Schedules change at a moment’s notice, which means that the underlying logistics of aircrafts, passengers, staff, supplies and baggage alter at a moment’s notice too.

Indeed, baggage logistics can be one of the most complicated factors in an airport’s communications infrastructure, demanding an effective mixture of voice and data communications that can respond immediately to new information and updated schedules. Just a few items of baggage incorrectly directed can generate huge process bottlenecks, or have a serious negative impact on an airport’s relationship with airlines and its overall reputation with passengers.

The unique needs of airports

All of these challenges demand highly reliable, scalable and secure communications infrastructures. The scenario of single failures escalating into catastrophic shutdowns cannot be allowed to happen in an airport. Thousands of staff across the site, divided into dozens of different mission-critical functions, need to be able to communicate clearly within and also across teams.

This is why Simoco Wireless Solutions has developed a specialist set of systems and services for airport settings. We provide intrinsically safe hardware for using in challenging environments like refuelling areas, and interoperable systems for air traffic control. What’s more, our airport networks are designed to unify a range of technologies and integrate with others, such as those used by the emergency services, which means that communication in the event of a crisis can be managed smoothly and efficiently.

The BA crisis is a timely reminder of the potential chaos a communications breakdown can have.

Read more about our mission-critical communications solutions for airports here.