Caroline Cook attended the company’s twice-yearly briefing to catch up on its latest announcements.
Communications, engineering and integration solutions provider ARINC International has had a prosperous year so far. The first six months of 2012 saw a 35% growth for the company in the Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) region and its workforce has grown by 40% in the past two years, particularly at ARINC’s UK headquarters near Gatwick, London.
Will Faas, Senior Manager of Product Development, Airport Systems, explained how the company’s airport business is progressing. Firstly, ARINC has developed a set of products based on its ‘Multi-Channel Services’ (MCS) platform which connects to a number of departure control systems (DCSs) used by airlines and ground handling companies. A total of 11 DCSs can now be connected, including Navitaire, Sabre and TravelSky. Multi-airline fast bag drop product ExpressDrop, which also runs on MCS, has been adapted for self-service, including biometric identification, enabling passengers to move from check-in to boarding without a printed boarding pass.
Key contract wins so far this year include Brussels and Nairobi airports, which both chose ARINC’s MUSE common-use passenger processing systems (CUPPS). Brussels is also the first European customer for VeriPax, which combines rapid screening of boarding passes with airport-defined business rules, and is able to increase throughput at security checks and expand the number of fast-track access points. It will be integrated into Brussels’ automated airside access gates for both general and fast-track passengers. ARINC will also replace the existing self-service kiosks and establish a new office near the Belgian airport. Commenting on the deal, which was won in May and will go live this December, Mr Faas said: “This was a tough contract to win with the incumbent provider in situ for the past ten years, but ARINC’s breadth of expertise and its ability to integrate a number of solutions into the offering were key factors in our success.”
Common-use self-service (CUSS) kiosk technology in use at London’s Heathrow is also due to be expanded by ARINC in partnership with IBM, which provides the hardware and management software. ARINC has added 35 more new self-service kiosks to the 200 already installed, which are now used by more than 30 airlines in Terminals 1, 3 and 4. Boarding passes for approximately 300,000 passengers are printed every month and ARINC anticipates further demand once Terminal 2 becomes operational. Smaller airports, including Glasgow and Newcastle, will also receive additional kiosks.
The Middle East continues to be an important market for ARINC, nine years since it first entered the region. Ongoing contracts include Dubai International Airport and the New Doha International Airport. The latter was won in 2007 and, in co-operation with Thales, involves the installation of the airport’s IT, security and telecommunications systems inside the main terminal and more than 100 supporting facilities buildings. According to ARINC, the first phase of systems is scheduled to be ready to support customer operations at the end of this year, adding that business at Doha has quadrupled over the last year.
A five-year contract renewal has been secured with ground handlers dnata at Dubai International Airport for an upgrade from iMuse to vMuse: this includes the delivery of CUPPS and CUSS platforms with the ability to work from remote sites from the Emirates Group Data Centres. ARINC is also supporting Dubai Airports with an extension of its systems deployed in Terminal 3/Concourse 2 to the new Concourse 3 to support the arrival of 20 new dedicated Airbus A380 gates and stands. The systems, which include AirVUE flight information displays systems (FIDS), AirPlan resource management system (RMS) and AirDB airport operational databases, are expected to go live by the end of this year.
For the second half of this year, ARINC is highlighting AviNet Mail Enterprise Hub (eHub), a new, cost-effective cloud computing-based messaging service for aviation users. After successful beta testing, the system is scheduled for a live launch in October 2012. It has been developed in response to users wishing to tailor an interface for their own users. eHub can be configured for either a single user or a global operator with multiple divisions and departments with varying message requirements – and it offers free internal and local message-routing which reduces costs for the customer. Furthermore, ARINC claims, “everything can be translated into any language”.
AviNet has added more than 2,500 new users so far in 2012. Total users in EMEA have now grown to 25,000. A recent survey by the company to determine customer satisfaction levels found that ARINC’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) –used to gauge customer satisfaction and indicate future growth – was 90, with 65 considered the industry benchmark.
Laura Petrozziello, EMEA Sales Management Director for the AviNet program, commented: “The results of the NPS reinforced what we already know – that our AviNet Mail services are the best in the industry. We work very hard to offer a superior product at a cost that is customer-friendly, and we are thrilled that the results of the survey indicate our efforts are paying off.”
One of ARINC’s most significant announcements was that Virgin Atlantic Airways will be the launch customer for its on-board WiFi internet connectivity service, Cabin Connect. This allows passengers to access the internet directly from their personal devices by logging on via a hotspot portal similar to those found in public areas. Passengers will also be able to enjoy products such as seatback messaging, live news and retail portals using in-flight entertainment systems. Virgin Atlantic plans to introduce the system later this year, initially on Airbus A330 aircraft serving long-haul routes.
As part of the Cabin Connect suite, ARINC is also promoting AirCrew Connect, which makes it easier for an airline to respond to a customer service issue while in the air. Cabin crew are able to book on-board transfers, track lost baggage, find a hotel room, and more, via a direct link back to the carrier’s headquarters or ground operations department. The system facilitates real-time fault-finding, meaning that IFE system problems can be rectified during flight and engineers can be booked from the air, reducing the amount of time an aircraft will have to spend on the ground.
ARINC has also signed a contract with Cathay Pacific to supply its ‘e-Enabled’ aircraft electronic flight bag (EFB) solution. This offers fully-customised, integrated communications management of flight operations, data communications services, cabin services, maintenance, diagnostics and vital safety information, representing what ARINC calls “breakthrough communications technology for the airline industry”.