Calgary Int'l Loads New Terminal With Passenger-Processing Technologies

Jodi Richards
Published in: 

Last fall, YYC Calgary International Airport (YYC) in Alberta capped its $2 billion airport development program with the opening of a new five-level, 2 million-square-foot terminal brimming with state-of-the-art technologies (see list to the left for specifics). Together with a 14,000-foot runway that opened in June 2014, the projects represent the largest single infrastructure program in the airport's history. 

The new $1.43 billion terminal adds 24 gates to the busy airport and incorporates a plethora of new systems, equipment and processes designed to optimize operations and enhance the passenger experience. Last year, YYC served 15.7 million travelers. 

Mike Maxwell, vice president and chief information officer for YYC, identifies foundational technologies as one of the most important aspects of the entire terminal project. "Having a robust core technology platform really allowed us to layer on a lot of the more passenger-focused or passenger-processing systems," he explains. "Without a strong base or commitment to building out a strong, scalable and highly available and high-functioning foundation, we wouldn't have been able to do as much as we have with passenger processing."

Project: Airport Development
Location: Calgary (AB) Int'l Airport 
Total Program: $2 billion
Terminal Cost: $1.43 billion
Size: 5 levels; 2 million sq. ft.
Architect & Prime Consultant: DIALOG 
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: AECOM 
Structural Engineer: RJC
Primary Construction Manager: EllisDon 
Mechanical/Electrical Construction Manager: Trotter & Morton 
Passenger Tracking Technology: Xovis 
Automatic Docking Guidance System: ADB SAFEGATE
Technology Enhancements 
Call-to-Gate Passenger Boarding System
CATSA Plus Screening Checkpoint
Automated U.S. & Canadian Customs Kiosks 
Swing Gate Technology
Automatic Docking Guidance System 
Custom Passenger Shuttle Service (YYC Link) 
System to Screen/Track Checked Bags Transferring from Int'l to Domestic Flights
Self-Service Bag Drops
Interactive Touch-Screen Directories 
Enhanced Mobile Website 

To ensure that technology investments delivered the greatest bang for the buck, YYC officials deployed them throughout the entire airport. "The organization committed to a full retrofit of our data center technologies, as well as our networking platforms, across the whole campus," Maxwell says. "It would have been very short-sighted or limiting if we only built those things out in the new terminal." 

Having a well-established data network-wired, first and foremost, Maxwell emphasizes-is critical. "We [also] want to ensure we have the best possible wireless network for all people-whether it's the traveling public, our tenants, ourselves or the airlines," Maxwell states. 

Investments in both wired and wireless networks provide all users with reliable service anywhere they need it-on the apron, in the concourse or in the operational areas, he explains. In addition to providing wireless infrastructure, YYC also operates its own wireless network, with 1,200 Wi-Fi antennas in the new terminal alone. 

Because the airport foresees more digital developments and increased interconnectivity in the future, it added a network with tremendous capacity and built it to be scalable, explains Maxwell. As chief information officer, he considers it his greatest asset. 

As for longevity, the new technology platform was designed and built to match the lifecycle of the new terminal: 30 years.  

Screening Enhancements
Streamlining passenger processing throughout the new 2 million-square-foot terminal was a high priority for airport officials, relates Maxwell. 

In turn, YYC is the first airport to launch a full CATSA Plus pre-board screening checkpoint. The new system-a partnership with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority-combines a number of new processing flows and technologies to provide passengers with a smoother and more secure screening process. Specifically, it is doubling YYC's previous throughput, reports Maxwell.

Sensors in the ceiling anonymously track passenger movement in the queue area and within the checkpoint, which reduces the number of times that boarding passes are scanned. Information collected by the sensors is integrated with CATSA's boarding pass security system and automatically calculates wait times and throughput statistics. 

Parallel divest stations allow up to four passengers to place their carry-on belongings in screening bins at the same time. This improves the overall process because passengers no longer need to wait for those in front of them-they can bypass others who may need more time or assistance, explains Maxwell. 

A new bin tracking system assigns a unique radio frequency identification tag to individual collection bins and photographs each one before it enters the X-ray machine. Other new checkpoint features include remote image review and a continuous belt that provides a constant flow of bins through the X-ray machine. A centralized screening room allows officers to review images in a remote lcoation, away from distractions at the checkpoint. Workstations are connected to a network that assigns X-ray images to the first available screening officer. 

Together, the various enhancements are designed to make it easier and faster for officers to identify items that require additional screening. A motorized bag diverter with split lanes allows officers to reject bins with flagged items and automatically redirect them to a separate search line for additional screening. Meanwhile, bins that are cleared proceed down another lane. Officials note that this process enhances security and improves flow through the screening line. 

Motorized rollers automatically return empty bins to the front of the line, reducing manual labor. The repack area was expanded and equipped with additional tables and benches to enhance passenger comfort and reduce bottlenecks by moving passengers away from the screening lines. 

As a whole, the new system is designed to produce higher-performance screening lines while also addressing CATSA's vision for seamless security. The upgraded checkpoint was initially tested at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in August 2016, and then deployed at YYC later that year.

"We're seeing a much higher throughput, which means less waiting for our passengers," Maxwell reports.

In the near future, the system will include eGates at the entrance of the checkpoint to automatically validate boarding passes and Trusted Traveler credentials. Once installed, the new gates will inform passengers of the next available screening line.

Customs & Checked Bag Improvements 
New technology was also added to improve passenger processing in its Canadian and United States Customs halls. The deployment of automated kiosks in both areas has been a positive effort, reports Maxwell. "This certainly streamlines the experiences for passengers. We've seen very good throughput increases."

New practices for arriving passengers who are connecting to domestic flights are proving beneficial as well. YYC's International to Domestic System allows the airport to ensure that checked bags for such travelers are screened and can be recalled by Canada Border Services Agency, if necessary; but passengers no longer have to reclaim and recheck their baggage between flights. "Now, passengers can flow through the process without getting their bags and without being rescreened," Maxwell explains. "The whole process of arriving back in Canada and heading off to your gate to Edmonton or Winnipeg, for example, is a lot simpler and a lot smoother."

Technology Outside the Terminal
YYC focused its airside changes on increasing flexibility and efficiency for airlines and boosting comfort and safety for passengers.

Swing gate technology developed and installed with the help of industry partners allows the airport to accommodate domestic, international or trans-border flights at a single gate. The new system allows the airport to screen gate corridors using video analytics and control doorways to ensure the pathways are completely secure. Airline agents then configure the gate for the specific style of operation required for each flight, thereby reducing staff that would have been required to conduct the process manually.  

The swing gate solution contributes to YYC's commitment to security and ensures operations are being conducted according to regulations and mandates while also allowing team members to service passengers in a more efficient manner, Maxwell explains. 

If the system triggers an alarm, a centralized security operations center can use cameras and video software to review and mitigate issues-often without having to dispatch staff or security personnel, he notes. 

Given the operational flexibility swing gate technology has added, the airport is considering extending the system as the need to support more domestic, international and trans-border flights increases. 

Outside the gate area, automatic docking guidance systems are providing additional benefits. Safedock Advanced Visual Docking Guidance Systems and SafeControl Apron Management software, both supplied by ADB SAFEGATE, help YYC ensure the safe and efficient automated marshaling of aircraft, says Taha Zahir, the company's project manager for gate solutions. 

The systems are particularly helpful during irregular operations such as electrical storms, notes Maxwell: Previously, if an airplane landed during an electrical storm and airline policy prompted the airline ground staff to evacuate the apron for safety reasons, passengers sometimes had to wait onboard the aircraft, just outside the terminal. Today, the airport's new technology allows aircraft to safely connect to the boarding bridge so passengers can deplane, he explains. 

The Safedock system uses an infrared laser and scanning technique to provide active guidance to pilots to support safe, efficient and precise aircraft parking, saving time and fuel, 
adds Zahir. 

Data Drives Future Innovation
In addition to increasing operational efficiencies and passenger service, YYC's recent technology additions will also provide invaluable data, notes Maxwell. Looking ahead, the airport is researching how it can put that information to work. 

"One of our focuses now is to ensure that we're working with our airline partners to figure out how we can use all of this information to make better decisions and empower our passengers," he states.  

"As an airport, we believe that technology and innovation are key parts of how we increase the value to our No. 1 customer-the airlines-but also to the traveling public," Maxwell relates. "It's exciting because we have such a great investment and we can leverage it more and more. We're in a great position and really looking forward to demonstrating that value to all of our stakeholders." 

Centralizing Concessions 
Amid a flurry of technological enhancements for its new terminal, YYC Calgary International Airport (YYC) also kept its eye on design. And once again, the goal was improving passenger flow and providing the best possible experience for travelers. 

New secure-side areas represent a noticeable change in strategy for YYC. Concessions are concentrated in a centrally located area to encourage passengers to wait there rather than at their gates. Display boards located throughout the central nodes allow travelers to see up-to-date flight information while choosing among 50 food/beverage options, retail shops and other amenities. 

"Instead of distributing all the concessions and services through the long concourse network, we have more of a centralized waiting area," explains Mike Maxwell, the airport's vice president and chief information officer. "Our gates are intended to be more of a destination when it is time to board the flight."

A variety of seating options and outlets for charging electronics provide additional incentives for passengers to wait in the new Departures Hall. The intention is to provide the highest level of service and offerings in one convenient space, notes Maxwell. 

But changing passenger behavior-specifically, the desire to head straight to gate areas after clearing the security checkpoint-has not been easy. The challenge is making passengers comfortable with remaining in the Departures Hall, he relates. "But the main thing is to ensure the passenger experience and if people want to go to the gate, they are certainly welcomed to do that, but we continue to try and reinforce that for their enjoyment and comfort, the best experience is in the centralized area." 



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