Station Operations Procurement Manager, British Airways
With all of the issues occupying both carriers and Ground Handling Companies, its no surprise that we sometimes allow events to overtake us. I would like to take the opportunity offered to me by Alain Chapgier and the people at Aviance to contribute to forum, to remind all of us about an issue that some of us may have not given much thought to.
I am referring to the development and implementation of CUSS, Common Use Self Service, the latest form of self service Check in to arrive at our airports with its own mix of opportunities and threats.
The IATA Common CUSS standard allows airlines to share hardware at airports and/or to 'plug-in' their individual hardware into a shared system environment.
This reduces airline costs, improves efficiency at airports and, in a self-service environment, helps passengers understand how to use the machine through a common and standard interface.
Colin Temple at IATA has been encouraging us all to pay this subject more attention for the past 4 years at least to my memory.
However it is only now that CUSS has become a reality that Carriers, Ground Handlers and the equipment suppliers are starting to wake up to the business and implementation issues.
Airport companies however have been quick to realise the potential of providing this new and lucrative activity, and in some cases seem keen to impose a monopoly status on this activity. The outcome in airports such as Brussels and Manchester may set the tone for implementation strategies in the rest of Europe.
This should be of concern to Carriers and Ground Handlers alike.
The concept that Airport Companies may take control of CUSS and, in time, perhaps control of all self service check-in activities at an airport should be both a great concern and an affront to our sense of natural justice. For an Airport Company to declare itself the monopoly provider of self service is nothing less than the denial of choice to the Carriers and an attempt to stifle competition in a supposedly open market to Ground Handlers
Self Service Check-in, and CUSS as a development of that, is a customer service enhancement. The technology that has been developed and championed by a relatively small number of Carriers has revolutionised the check in process and fundamentally altered customer service delivery. This process is often the natural preserve of Ground Handling Companies, yet both carriers and their appointed handling companies are in real danger of losing control to airport companies .
None of this is new of course, we have all heard Colin's updates at IGHC's for the past few years and now we even have a specific section of the IATA SGHA Annex A to provide for these services.
What is new is that the implementation is not some time in the future, its now, and we have been caught sleeping.
The common standards for the technology is all agreed.
The real challenge lies in the business processes and the commercial arrangements for provision, hosting and operation of both Carriers' dedicated Self Service and CUSS at airports around the world.
I look forward to continuing this debate with my industry colleagues and hopefully to some innovative solutions in cooperation with our chosen service partners.
Mal Murphy is Station Operations Procurement Manager at British Airways and is currently Chairman of the IATA Ground Handling Council.
This is our guests opinion and does not necessary reflect the alliance viewpoint.