Airports as complex ecosystems: Measure resilience by how many variables depend on your DCS

DCS and airport resilience: taking the ‘critical’ out of this critical variable with DRS

Airports as complex ecosystems: Measure resilience by how many variables depend on your DCS
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Opinion by Nicolás Astengo, VP of Sales, Ink Innovation

In any ecosystem, variables depend on one another. In a forest, for example, higher than average rainfall might swell the rivers, leading to increased plant growth, which drives an increase in the population of herbivore species. This is followed by a correction of this variable by carnivores, as their food source becomes more abundant. Thus an equilibrium is maintained.

Imagine an airport as a bustling hub of interconnecting variables, where every component operates in delicate coordination. It's a complex system where order and efficiency are the goals. 

The performance of the Departure Control System (DCS) is critically important to almost every other variable in the airport. As such, sustainable functioning is at risk as long as this remains the case.

DCS failure: the critical variable

Picture this: DCS, the linchpin of an airport's operational machinery, falters. The consequences are rapid and far-reaching, rippling through airport operations like a shockwave.

The first domino to fall is on-time performance. Airlines are unable to effectively process passengers. Precisely scheduled flights suddenly face delays and disruptions, queues are growing, impacting passengers and staff morale. 

Missed connections become the norm rather than the exception. Flight scheduling and interlining, crucial for smooth travel, unravel. Airlines are forced into a high-stakes game of accommodating passengers, striving for a solution that minimises inconvenience and cost.

Chaos unfolds, airport personnel scramble to manage the fallout. Stress levels soar as they strive to address passenger complaints, and manage customer services, such as hotel room allocations and meal vouchers.

Baggage handling takes a hit too. Bags need rerouting or removing, leading to a logistical headache. Additional resources must be deployed in all areas to cover the tsunami of incoming passengers arriving at the airport, while unable to process those already in the terminal.

Disruptions begin to cause crew members to exceed legally mandated working hours. And now airlines must begin messaging standby crew members. They may even need to mobilise resources from other operational bases.

The cost of the incident blossoms in every aspect of the operation, from deploying additional human resources, to increasing costs cancelling bookings and compensating passengers.

A single variable is disrupted and the entire ecosystem collapses. 

When this happens in natural systems – for example, drought – the effects are catastrophic. In extreme cases, it may lead to a phase transition in the ecosystem itself, with some species entirely disappearing and being replaced by others. This can’t happen in an airport. Its very purpose is to provide consistent function.   

In the realm of digital operations, a Disaster Recovery System (DRS) is an insurance policy; it's not merely about damage control, but crafting a resilient and unshakable digital foundation.

A Disaster Recovery System (DRS) takes the ‘critical’ out of this critical variable

Airlines and airports are always looking to improve passenger experience. But having a well defined disaster recovery plan for passenger processing is the exception. Not the rule. 

We’re all so reliant on digital systems, most of us never consider what happens when they fail.

The usual procedure in disaster situations is to move to a manual process. This isn’t sustainable in the medium to long term, as the number of passengers processed is a fraction of that possible when using an automated DCS.   

More technologically advanced airports and airlines have some sort of backup DCS in place that allows operations to continue after interruption. It’s an improvement on manual, but flights and passengers need to be reinitialised leading to delays and frustration.  

In a world that's ever more digitally entangled, it's remarkable how we rely on advanced systems, often without acknowledging the immense trust we've invested in these technological wonders.

Technology has improved at warp speed, and our customers’ expectations of it have too. In an ideal world, when disruptions happen, customers won’t even notice any interruption in the service.

While having a backup DCS is going part of the way, having a system that can continue without any interruption despite a failure at host level, or even an airport connectivity problem, is the gold standard. It's what 21st century customers will expect. 

At Ink we’ve been crafting solutions to ensure world-class passenger experience for more than a decade. Want to continue the conversation? Get in touch.

About the Author

Nicolás is the Vice President of Sales of Ink Innovation. He brings over 16 years of rich experience in the aviation technology sector.

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