Conference under the authority of the CIS Airports Association Arrangement of Transportation During Public Events. Novotel, Sheremetyevo. Moscow. November 27-28, 2014
How a passenger check-in is carried out via electronic tickets? How this process can be readjusted in a small airport where there is no infrastructure. What threatens the personal data of passengers and how to ensure their protection. Zafar Kabilov, the CIS Regional Director of Zamar AG, answered these and other questions in an interview with a CNews correspondent.
CNews: Tell us what your company is doing. What solutions do you promote and in which markets do you work? How is your business developing?
Zafar Kabilov: Zamar AG Company incorporated in Switzerland specializes in solutions for automating passenger check-in and boarding processes at airports. In addition to software, the package of our services includes an accompanying hardware, which are mobile check-in counters, servers, self-service check-in kiosks.
The market of Tajikistan is native to the Company, where we have been working since 2007. At that time, at all airports of the country, the work on registration of departing passengers was carried out manually, and for the first time Zamar automated this process. Now Zamar works with all airlines and airports of Tajikistan. Initially, we used other people’s solutions, but since 2009 we have been engaged in our own developments, since foreign products did not meet the specifics of the post-Soviet space. Zamar already works in Iran, our solutions are already being tested in Kyrgyzstan, and now we are entering the Russian market. In 2013, 1.2 million departing passengers passed through Zamar systems in Tajikistan. At the end of 2014, we expect an increase of these values by 40%. Profit is increasing at a similar pace.
CNews: What is the specificity of work in post-Soviet countries?
Zafar Kabilov: Every so often one have to create an IT infrastructure from scratch. After the collapse of the USSR, the airline transportation industry experienced a serious crisis. Many regional airports were put on hold, passenger traffic as a whole decreased significantly. For example, the Minsk airport only this year reached the figures preceding 1991 (1.4 million passengers). Air transportation growth was noticeable only in a few large cities. In fact, the whole country after the collapse of the Soviet Union flies through Moscow. In my opinion, the introduction of IT in the regions can revive local air transportation.
CNews: How do you assess fitting of Russian airports with IT solutions?
Zafar Kabilov: Equipping the airports with information technology is at an extremely low level, with the exception of large regional “hubs” – Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, as well as Vladivostok and Sochi, where mass events have recently been held. In other cities, the situation is far from perfect. Our solution is able to revive the small airport passenger terminals, through which only one or two flights are performed daily. So, in 2013, using our technique and software, the airport of Kurgan-Tube city was launched, which was put on hold before that for 20 years. Due to the introduced IT, the throughput functionality of the mentioned port is 5-6 thousand people per month.
CNews: The main product you presented in Russia was the Universal Departure Platform Solution (UDPS). What specific needs does this solution cover?
Zafar Kabilov: UDPS is the software installed at the check-in counters. With its help, passengers and baggage are checked-in, boarding passes are issued. A specific feature of the solution is the ability to connect various services for checking electronic tickets to one counter (Departure Control System, DCS). Thus, there is no need to allocate a separate counter for each airline. This approach is especially relevant in small airports where several airlines operate, but the total number of flights is small.
CNews: What solutions of this class do you have to compete with and what modernity can UDPS offer in comparison with them?
Zafar Kabilov: In addition to our platform, there are five more solutions that represent a single “adapter” for connecting to airline electronic ticket services – these are SITA, MUSE, AirIT, RESA and Ultra. In Russia, large airports use the international SITA system, while at smaller airports the French RESA is installed. In their work, both of these platforms transmit data to servers located abroad, which in the light of the current geopolitical situation creates additional risks. For example, in Iran there was a precedent when the Mahan Air company was disconnected from the SITA system for political reasons. UDPS placed a premium on autonomy of operation, that is, all data is stored on the territory of the airport and one cannot disable the system from the outside.
An additional advantage is that the Zamar platform is not tied to a particular type of equipment, so when shifting to UDPS there is no need to purchase new hardware. In addition, we do not limit the additional services that the airport can introduce at its discretion, for example, integrate the platform with self-service kiosks for automatic check-in.
Our another know-how, RAS, is the reserve autonomous system. This module can carry out or continue checking-in the passengers in the absence of communication between the airport and the server used by DCS (absence of Internet). At the moment, the module only works with NIKA DCS, but can be integrated with any other DCS.
CNews: One of the claimed benefits of UPDS is its compliance with Personal Data laws. Tell us more about what exactly is meant there.
Zafar Kabilov: Historically, it turned out that the standard for communication between the information systems of the airline and the airport is the SITA Link and SITA Express foreign technologies, which transmit data in encrypted form. Even if both participants store data locally in Russia, exchange of information is performed with the participation of a third party. We offer to refuse this mediation. As a possible option, we have the opportunity to organize data transfer via e-mail. In addition, our experts are ready to organize any other encrypted communication channel.
CNews: What difficulties arise when shifting to the UDPS platform?
Zafar Kabilov: Technically, it is very simple. Since we are ready to work with any equipment, it is only necessary to install and configure the software. The configuration of one working place will take 30 minutes, which means that installing the check-in system, for example, at ten counters at airport, will take in total eight hours. These works are free of charge, but the customer pays travel expenses to experts. Currently we are ready to install the software for a trial period of 30 days for free.
CNews: If the airport does not have its own hardware, are you ready to offer anything yourself?
Zafar Kabilov: Yes, we have a “mobile airport” solution. It includes two modules. Firstly, this is a mobile check-in counter, which is a case where a computer with autonomous power supply and installed UDPS platform is “packed”, as well as a printer for printing boarding passes. Such check-in counter can be unfolded in minutes even in a clean field. The second module is for checking the boarding sheets. It is also a portable case with a computer inside, autonomous power supply, a UDPS platform and a scanner to verify boarding passes. The minimum complete set is one module for registration and one for boarding, the cost in this case will be i500 thousand. The standard package includes four check-in counters, two boarding gates, a server and two self-service kiosks, the starting price of which is i6 million. We can also offer individual complete set for the needs of a particular airport.
CNews: Is it true that this is a “niche” solution, “tooled for” for small airports?
Zafar Kabilov: Absolutely, this is convenient for local airline terminals. There is no need to build a stationary counter, which then will have to be maintained and guarded. The system is suitable for airports of any size – from the largest to the smallest. There is no concept of “airport size” in company policy, we can work even if there is 1 flight per day.
However, local airports are just one of the directions where a mobile solution can be used. In addition, it can be used to check-in passengers in VIP rooms. Another option is the remote passenger check-in at the location. For example, a sports team will be able to check-in for a flight directly from the hotel. Finally, the “mobile airport” can be used to secure the main infrastructure of the airport in the event of contingency.
CNews: Do opponents have similar products?
Zafar Kabilov: There are several solutions in the world for mobile check-in. For example, Swiss Company allows first-class passengers to check-in from home or office. But in Russia such solutions have not yet been presented. As for the mobile gate, this is our know-how.
CNews: Besides mobile check-in, what can you offer from a passenger’s point of view?
Zafar Kabilov: Currently, all systems confer the possibility of choosing a place, including the NIKA DCS system. Our “perk” is that we are ready to additionally provide information about neighbours on the flight. Of course, the system does not give out the passport data of passengers traveling near, but you can find out whether it is a man or a woman, an adult (over 12 years old) or a passenger with a small child.
Since our system works autonomously, we are not dependent on the availability of communication with the Internet, therefore, the possibility of a flight delay due to interruptions in communication is excluded.
Our another solution that passengers will appreciate is online check-in on the airport’s web page. Currently, online check-in is possible on the websites of the airlines themselves.
We also simplified the process of obtaining a boarding pass at self-service check-in kiosks. Now there is no need to scan a passport; to check-in it is enough to enter the reservation number and last name.
Wherever a passenger himself operates with the system (online check-in and self-service check-in kiosk), we have provided for the possibility of multilingualism. Our system allows the installation of any languages, which is especially valuable in such a multilingual country as Russia.
CNews: Are there any already concluded contracts in Russia?
Zafar Kabilov: It’s too early to talk about it yet, we have just presented a solution in the Russian Federation.
CNews: What products are you currently working on and intend to introduce them in the future?
Zafar Kabilov: Firstly, it is a check-in system based on Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID). Secondly, Zamar is developing a system for booking electronic tickets for Russia’s special benefit.