Chaos looms as FAAN ends 10-year SITA automation deal

 

  • Airlines, agency met to avoid travel dislocation
  • IATA writes agency

 

The ten year agreement that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) penned with Societe International Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA) for automation of the international airports in Nigeria would come to an end on May 2, 2021.

This could throw international air travel from the four major airports across Nigeria into chaos as the new firm Arlington and by extension, FAAN are said to be struggling with the job of providing quality and cost effective Common Use of Terminal Equipment (CUTE) system at least for now..

SITA’s contract with FAAN which was extended by six months had run its course. The situation came without adequate preparation for a new soft ware solution to provide passengers processing at the major airports; a situation that is expected to throw passenger facilitation into chaos as from next week.

 

Passenger processing, CUPP and CUSS system

While Arlington Security Nigeria Services is still grappling with some issues, the inability to find a stop-gap for the process which was hitherto handled by SITA and which FAAN had allegedly urged airlines to partly fund has led to bickering between the airlines and the airport authority.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved N10 billion to Arlington Security Nigeria Services for the automation of five international airports. The airports are those in Lagos, Enugu, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano.

The system would facilitate Common Use of Terminal Equipment (CUTE) system required for sharing airport resources in accordance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Recommendation 1797.

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Aviation Metric learnt that IATA had also written a letter to FAAN on the matter on behalf of the airlines.

A top official of one of the biggest European airlines who spoke condition of anonymity told our correspondent that virtually all the airlines have complained about the company awarded the contract to due to what they accepted to be inferior product they offer and far more expensive than what SITA offered the carriers.

The source stated that the angst of the carriers stemmed from the fact that the promoters of the firms want airlines to contribute money for a stop-gap facilities for three months which they rejected because of the huge sums approved by government for the automation of the airport that is expected to enhance sharing of traditional check-in desks and the software platform to generate the bag tags for baggage handling systems.

The sources further stated, “If the meeting is deadlocked, we are going to have problems with check-in. For example, people who are going to destinations beyond in the US will only be able to land in Atlanta. The whole system will be in a mess. Why are these things still happening in Nigeria?

 

Stranded passengers at Lagos airport

To avoid huge crisis at the international airports, representatives of IATA, FAAN and all the airlines are to hold strategic meeting on Thursday to resolve the matter to avoid avoidable crisis occasioned by inability to process passengers beyond point to point destinations.

FAAN had in a letter to all station managers in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt, titled, “Smart App Project Implementation in Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja”, dated March 30th, 2021 and signed by General Manager, ICT, FAAN, Charles Nwachi, states in part,” This is to re-emphasised  the need and urgency for your airline to join the smart app project implementation”.

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“It is therefore imperative that all international airlines integrate with the Arlington/ICT SmartApp solution immediately as agree in our last meeting of December 11, 2020 with FAAN with FAAN top management in order to avoid service disruption”.

He further stated, “We wish to bring to your notice that with effect from May 1, 2021, the current common use passenger processing system being managed by SITA at the Abuja and Lagos airport shall cease to be operational. You may wish to note that the Arlington /ICT SmartApp solution will not attract extra charges beyond the ones in existence”.

“Once again, the Arlington/ICTS SmartApp solution can be linked to any airline’s DCS directly through WBS and is a complete check-in system with support for various airline print configurations for both boarding pass and baggage tags. As this connection is direct to host, integration with airlines is also fast and seamlessly”.

Nwachi further disclosed that the Arlington/ICTS Smart App integration is free as FAAN has paid for all associated costs and the introduction of the SmartApp solution will not attract extra charges beyond the one in existence.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who got the FECs approval said the contract was awarded to Arlington Security Nigeria Limited with the timeline of 12 months stating that the system would facilitate Common Use of Terminal Equipment (CUTE) system required for sharing airport resources in accordance with IATA Recommendation 1797.

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According to him, this allows flexible sharing of resources for check-in and boarding, such as servers, work stations, associated peripherals between airlines and handling agencies present at the airport.

The minister also said the system would also provide for baggage drop, which makes it faster and quicker for passenger processing and would also provide for E-gates that would be electronically operated.

 

Self check-in kiosks

The contract was awarded to SITA after Maevis Nigeria Limited was booted out before the expiration of the firm’s contract which is subject of litigation and has dragged on for years.

The FAAN had on October 31, 2007 entered into agreement with Maevis Limited to provide an integrated Airport Operations Management System, AOMS for FAAN part of which contained automation of the airport managers’ revenue as well as provision of a CUTE system.

This led to legal actions and a Federal High Court in Lagos ruled in June, 2013 that all the agreements entered by FAAN and SITA be halted and their implementation stopped while  Justice Ibrahim Buba awarded N5 billion as damages in favour of Maevis Nigeria Ltd., in a suit against SITA.

Wole Shadare