Jim Martin, managing director of the Asia-Pacific Division of communications technology specialist ARINC, has been involved in the airline and airports industries for 25 years. In that time, he says he has seen a dramatic shift in the sector’s communications and information technology (IT) needs.
“From the 20-year perspective, there has been a significant move towards shared-infrastructure solutions,” Martin says. On the airport side, there has been a movement towards self-service check-in products, while air-to-ground communications has been enhanced with high-frequency and satellite communications.
The shifts will continue in the future, with an increasing emphasis on mobile solutions – such as allowing passengers to check in via smart-phones or on-line. Martin says the new technology could be developed by ARINC, or the company could act as systems integrator.
“It will be a combination,” he says. “You will see more from us in engineering and systems integration.”
ARINC has ridden out the financial turmoil of the past two years by seeing its customers as partners.
“There has always been price-pressure from the industry,” Martin says. “When this happened, we viewed our relationship with our customers as a partnership. That went over very well.”
In some cases, he adds, the company came up with solutions for its customers that were a “win-win”, benefitting both sides.
Thanks in part to this approach, the company’s top-level financial performance has continued to grow, Martin says. The company has also focused activities on markets that have been less severely affected by the global crisis – such as Asia, where ARINC has scored several recent successes.
Martin highlights ARINC’s AeroConnx Electronic Flight Bag as a key product the company is offering to meet airline IT needs. Earlier this year, the company announced that Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways had begun operational evaluation of the equipment after participating actively in the system’s development.
Martin says the EFB partnership with Cathay is similar to the way ARINC developed its aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) datalink, in co-operation with US-based carrier Piedmont Airlines.
“We start with one airline partner, then interest grows to other carriers,” Martin says.
ARINC says AeroConnx is the world’s first comprehensive EFB solution, offering airlines integrated management of EFB applications, aircraft content and data, message delivery and datalink communication services. To support the trial, the technology company also recently deployed its GateFusion service to provide Cathay with a high-bandwidth gatelink at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).
“The way airlines use and manage information is changing very rapidly and new on-board systems like electronic flight bags and media such as gatelink and Iridium are being used to support applications like electronic charts, documents, techlogs and real-time credit-card authorisation,” says Capt Russell Davie, Cathay’s general manager of operations. “AeroConnx supports both flight-deck and cabin applications, and we believe it will lead the way to help airlines leverage the latest new technologies and become more operationally efficient and cost-effective.”
Another Asian success came in July, when ARINC announced that Singapore Airlines (SIA) had adopted its VeriPax passenger reconciliation system (PRS) at Singapore’s Changi Airport to enhance passenger handling. The system provides high-speed passenger processing, using information from 2D bar codes printed on boarding passes.
SIA became the second Asian carrier to adopt the system after Cathay, which had helped develop the technology together with ARINC and Changi Airport.
“Passengers today are increasingly embracing self-service options,” says Yeo Kya Thye, Changi’s director of airport operations. “The VeriPax PRS simplifies the airport processes, benefitting both airlines and passengers with a more user-friendly experience.”
ARINC has also been expanding in the key growth markets of India and mainland China. In China, the company revealed in October 2009 that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Aviation Data Communications Corp (ADCC) to further develop its GLOBALink advanced aviation datalink system.
The China GLOBALink partnership operates 87 remote ground stations around China, ARINC says. The partners’ joint venture ADARI Aviation Technology is researching and developing applications for the aviation industry, such as content delivery management and EFB technology.
The October agreement renewed the partnership for another four years, expanding and upgrading datalink coverage in China. Last year marked ten years of partnership with the civil aviation authorities of both China and Thailand for GLOBALink.
The company also announced last year that it had opened two new sales and service offices in India, in Mumbai and New Delhi, strengthening its presence in the fast-expanding Asian market.
ARINC opened its Singapore headquarters in 2003 with a staff of six people in the region. Since then, the company says it has captured a growing share of the regional market for aviation communications and airport technologies.
The technology company has also won or renewed IT contracts with many of the busiest Asia-Pacific airports, including Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, HKIA and Changi.