British Airways (BA) is one of the world’s largest international airlines and is headquartered in London at its main hub at Heathrow Airport. It is the airport’s major operator, controlling approximately 50 percent of flights to and from then airport, and is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations.
Like many airlines around the world, BA operates on tight margins. Investment in new fleets and technology has been the key, along with careful capacity management, efficient process adoption and consolidation. Inefficient airline operations can mean that airlines incur fines. It is therefore vital for BA to have efficient and streamlined communications to support swift aircraft turnaround operations.
Ground-to-air communications are a critical element of airline operations, providing the ability to communicate between the airline’s flight deck and the operational control centre for a range of up to 200 nautical miles. For outbound and inbound flights, information relating to the aircraft and its passengers can be relayed, ensuring that the necessary preparations for passenger assistance or aircraft maintenance can be implemented prior to the aircraft landing. Ground-to-air communications are used by BA to facilitate efficient aircraft turnaround, helping to avoid the financial penalties associated with schedule delays.
There were several driving factors for BA to commence this project. Firstly, BA needed to relocate operations. Secondly, the airline needed to reduce the total cost of ownership of voice, video and data services in use. Finally, BA wanted a way to manage communication services with ease.
To improve its communications services, BA selected an on-premise, fully managed and maintained solution from communications integrator Affini. The solution features WAVE operating on BA’s existing converged IP network. Comprised of a number of elements, the WAVE solution deployed included clients on standard desktop PCs, and bespoke server infrastructure.
WAVE was recommended for and deployed to BA because it provides secure, real-time communications from any IP enabled position on the network and from a number of industry standard smartphone devices. This capability means that all BA end users, whether mobile or in the office, can effectively communicate and collaborate through voice, text and data. Using WAVE, BA now has the opportunity to operate a mixed estate of devices without impairing functionality.
Deployed to more than 75 operational positions serving in excess of 1,000 users, the WAVE Desktop Communicator application allows BA operators to communicate to smart phones, radios and carrier push-to-talk (PTT) networks from any WAVE-enabled PC, across a secure network infrastructure.
This capability not only removes the need to deploy radio handsets to desktop workers who don’t need them, but also allows users to participate in communications between multiple radio channels. In addition, the Desktop Communicator provides activity displays, audio recording and instant replay to give users a complete communications history.
One of the key benefits to BA is the capability to cost effectively globalise radio communications. Using WAVE, BA now has the ability to replicate its UK control centre anywhere in the world. Furthermore, BA’s ground-to-air communications now benefit from the inherent resilience of its fully redundant IP network infrastructure.
“WAVE is a tremendously powerful unified communications platform with a suite of applications that makes it possible for teams of people, whether mobile or in their offices, to effectively communicate and collaborate,” Weatherley said.
The implementation of WAVE has delivered a number of benefits to BA.
Simplified communications architecture: By replacing its remote radio base station, radio handset and leased line connections architecture with desktop PC applications running over a standardized IP network that can be accessed from any geographical location, BA enjoys a more flexible, scalable and future-proofed ground-to-air communications capacity.
Significant CAPEX and OPEX reductions: Because it is no longer wholly dependent on ageing radio base station and repeater hardware, spares inventory, recurring maintenance charges and monthly leased telephone lines, BA has seen immediate and longer-term cost benefits associated with its IP-based ground-to-air system.
Unlimited communications extensibility: Now that radio communications can be distributed over an IP network to other application-enabled wired and wireless devices, BA operations personnel have the flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing airport environment using any readily available network port or wireless connection to access ground-to-air communications.
Freedom to explore new device choice: WAVE applications can turn almost any smart phone, tablet, desktop phone, PC or handheld mobile computer into a push-to-talk (PTT) communications device, giving local communications a strategic capability that knows no device, network or regional boundary. With WAVE, BA has the ability to pursue transformational operating strategies that put critical voice communications on the device they believe most appropriate for any given role.
“By putting our ground-to-air communications directly on our IP network, we could dispense with expensive remote terminals and leased lines, gaining the flexibility to adapt to every changing airport environment using any readily available network ports,” Weatherley said.
“We’re now looking at extending its capabilities further to include smart phones and tablets, running on carrier data networks, ensuring seamless communications in any location. In addition, we’re looking at the potential to integrate WAVE into a new enterprise collaboration platform and expand use of WAVE into the worldwide flight operations control centre and LHR airport control centre.”
Download the full British Airways case study here.