WebConnect

A Faster Method For Managing Slot Data

The current IATA-standard technology used by the industry results in considerable lag time between when an airline initiates a slot request and when its database is updated with the response from the airport slot coordinator. With commercial or operational needs requiring decisions to be made quickly, waiting for responses has adverse economic impact for airlines. Sabre has worked with IATA and the airport-coordinator community to develop a new alternative technology standard that achieves results in seconds or minutes as opposed to hours or days.

The current IATA standard for airlines and airport slot coordinators to communicate is based on the IATA SSIM Chapter 6 format and email messages. The SSIM Chapter 6 format was originally designed for Type-B Telex messages; however, effective October 2015, it is only to be used with email messages. With the current standard, an airline’s request and the slot coordinator’s response have to go through multiple systems before the airline can make a decision based on the response. For example, an airline’s request for a new slot typically involves a 12-step sequence:

  1. The airline wants to add a new operation at a slot-controlled airport.
  2. From the airline’s slot-management system, the airline sends the slot request in IATA SSIM Chapter 6 format.
  3. The airline’s slot-management system communicates with the airline’s email system and the slot request is sent as an email message to the airport slot coordinator.
  4. The email request is received by the coordinator’s email system.
  5. The coordinator’s email system communicates with the coordinator’s slot-management system to forward the slot request.
  6. The coordinator processes the airline’s request. (This is done to different degrees of automation by different coordinators and different coordinators’ slot-management systems.)
  7. From the coordinator’s slot-management system, the coordinator sends the slot response in IATA SSIM Chapter 6 format.
  8. The coordinator’s slot-management system communicates with the coordinator’s email system and the slot response is sent as an email to the airline.
  9. The email response is received by the airline’s email system.
  10. The airline’s email system communicates with the airline’s slot-management system to forward the slot response.
  11. The airline’s slot-management system processes the response.
  12. The airline learns whether or not the slot request was approved or denied and then makes the decision whether or not to add the operation.

The above sequence can take between 10 minutes to 72 hours by the time the airline’s slot data is updated and the airline can make a decision. Similar sequences are involved when requesting slot changes or asking for all the slots the airline holds at the airport. It’s clearly a slow, outdated process.

Considerable Versus Minimal Lag Time

The current approach to slot management is based on transmitting slot requests via email from an airline’s slot-management system to the coordinator’s slot-management system and then waiting for email responses to come back. The WebConnect approach is based on an airline’s slot-management system connecting directly to the coordinator’s slot-management system for slot requests.

The WebConnect Method

Working closely with airport coordinators in France and the United Kingdom, Sabre explored the technical feasibility of an alternative approach based on state-of-the-art technology. In addition, the Sabre Slot Manager User Executive Committee validated the market need and identified key requirements and priorities for the airline community. As a result, Sabre worked closely with IATA and the airport-coordinator community to develop WebConnect, an XML-based IATA-standard alternative for airlines and coordinators to communicate.

With WebConnect, using XML and Web Services, the need for email is eliminated, and airlines receive an immediate response. For example, an airline’s request for a new slot now involves the following sequence:

  1. The airline wants to add a new operation at a slot-controlled airport.
  2. The airline’s slot-management system connects to the coordinator’s slot-management system and makes the slot request. While connected, the coordinator’s slot-management system checks availability and either confirms the request or denies it (with the reasons for the denial) and the airline’s slot-management system updates the airline’s slot database.
  3. The airline immediately sees whether or not it was awarded the slot and can decide whether or not to add the operation.

The above sequence can take between a few seconds to a minute before the airline’s slot data is updated and the airline can make a decision. This three-step methodology applies to slot-change requests and when asking for all the slots the airline holds at the airport.

Airline Benefits

Airlines realize several benefits from using WebConnect technology. In addition to immediate responses to their slot requests using Web Services and automation provided by online slot-coordination systems, airlines’ databases are updated with slots immediately upon coordinator approval. This eliminates the problem of data getting out of synch between an airline’s online slot-coordination system and external slot-management systems.

Additionally, the IATA XML standard provides some flexibility not supported by the older IATA SSIM Ch. 6 Telex-based format. For example, airlines will be able to more easily/quickly determine which similar alternate slots are available when the desired slot is not available and, hence, can make a quick decision to get an alternate slot before another airline takes it.

Value To Airport Slot Coordinators

While WebConnect clearly offers advantages for airlines, why would coordinators want to support it? Coordinators can reduce the need for manual processing. In addition, automation that keeps the airline slot database up to date reduces errors and potential future problems that coordinators would have to manage.

From a technology perspective, some coordinators prefer the additional security that WebConnect offers over email communications.

Availability

WebConnect is available to all airlines using Sabre AirVision Slot Manager IATA, version 14.0 or later. While WebConnect is currently only being used by COHOR (the airport coordinator for France) and ACL (the airport coordinator for the United Kingdom and Dubai), other coordinators from around the world are also showing interest in the new technology.