As flying continues to move from the privilege of the few to the travel choice of the masses, more and more pressure is being placed on the operations of airports around the world.
But it is not just the international hubs facing the deluge of passengers and the need for better communication between staff.
The George Best Belfast City Airport is one such travel hub. Based in the Northern Irish capital, the airport runs services across the UK, including the country’s only route to London Heathrow, and serves 2.5 million passengers a year.
With 1,500 employees based across eight buildings – making up 100,000 square feet – communication was a high priority but one failing to be met by its existing PBX telephone system. As well as being expensive to keep running, with even simple changes needing expert engineers, the solution did not have room for expansion and offered little when it came to disaster recovery options.
We determined that, in order to provide for flexibility, resilience and future growth, we had to move our telephony to the cloud
Raymond Hooke, airside operations manager, Belfast City Airport
As a result, the airport decided to look for a new, up-to-date solution to tackle its needs.
Using its IT solutions provider, Outsource Solutions, it decided to adopt business VoIP and cloud-based unified communications services from 8x8 Solutions, the UK arm of the US parent company.
“With the help of Outsource Solutions and 8x8, we determined that, in order to provide for flexibility, resilience and future growth, we had to move our telephony to the cloud,” says Raymond Hooke, airside operations manager at Belfast City Airport.
“We were truly impressed with how 8x8 proactively reached out to us, came prepared with an analysis of our needs and delivered what they recommended efficiently and on budget.”
Terry Moore, CEO of Outsource Solutions, admits there were some concerns before the roll-out. “The challenge we faced was upgrading the technology during the airport’s normal day-to-day operations, which saw over 2.5 million passengers using the facility in 2013 making it one of the busiest periods in the airport’s 30-year history,” he says.
However, working together on the project, the firm was able to plan the project over a few months and after just one week of deployment, the system went live towards the end of January 2014.
Read more about unified communications
As well as having the ability to handle the airport’s needs today, as well as in the future, the solution offers monitoring and real-time reporting services, enabling IT staff to keep track of the busiest times at the airport and ensure the system is offering the capacity needed.
Belfast is the first airport using the 8x8 solution, but its CEO, Kevin Scott-Cowell, believes there will be many more to come, especially when it comes to embracing the cloud for communications.
“Airports all over the world are facing the need for reliable, secure and scalable services that are well beyond the capabilities of traditional on-premise PBX systems,” he says.
“The ability of cloud communications services to provide the resiliency and reliability necessary to keep the communications systems of a mission-critical public utility like an airport online and available confirms that IP communications not only meet but exceed traditional telephony capabilities.
“Airports like Belfast City are leading the way in the adoption of cloud technologies that will forever change the way public transportation operators handle their communications needs. We are proud to be supporting them in this endeavour and look forward to helping facilitate the airport’s future expansion and growth.”