Marker pens and whiteboards. These are not how Gatwick Airport, which handles 45 million passengers annually and was voted airport of the year in the 2017 National Transport Awards, expected to find itself putting out flight information this week.
Yet that’s what it had to resort to on Monday morning after its new and award-winning flight information display system went black, leaving engineers scrambling for a fix and customers gathering around whiteboards.
The airport won Cloud Project of the Year for the screens, “becoming the world’s first major airport to introduce a cloud-based Flight Information System (FIDS)”, it announced in May this year, saying the new system is “easily scalable, more flexible and resilient, and require considerably less infrastructure and maintenance.”
New Screens Take “Only 3Mbps of Bandwidth”
Legacy FID systems required software to be loaded on a separate PC behind the screen to run them – whereas the airport’s 1,200 cloud-based screens now connect via a web browser from any operating system, the airport said at the time.
“This takes up only 3Mbps of bandwidth – so the new real-time system is extremely fast and responsive to updates – which is key in times of disruption.”
AirportLabs, which developed the VisionAir FIDS, said there had been no problems with the screen technology, just the connection to it.
Due to damage to a Vodafone fibre optic cable, we are continuing to display our flight info manually. Contingencies are working – we have whiteboards and friendly staff on hand to help, and tens of thousands of passengers have departed on time. Apologies for any inconvenience.
Gatwick blamed a damaged fibre cable, which Vodafone has since repaired.
Vodafone told Computer Business Review: “Our engineers fixed a damaged fibre cable which is used by Gatwick Airport to display flight information yesterday afternoon. We are very sorry for any problems caused by this issue.”
Declining to answer where or how the damage occurred, or what actions it was taking to prevent any future such disruptive outages, Vodafone simply responded: “It was a broken cable”.
The company in 2017 conducted a major modernisation programme across Gatwick Airport’s North and South terminals, adding 300 new mobile antennas and 46 kilometres of fibre optic cabling to the airport.