With a 10% increase in passengers from the previous year and a large volume increase in the number of bags processed during July’s World Cup event, South Africa’s airports had to ensure that they were ready and able to provide a seamless, efficient and problem-free customer service experience, whilst meeting essential security requirements.

Ultra Electronics Airport Systems baggage reconciliation system, UltraTrack, implemented in 2008 provided the Aviation Co-ordination Service (ACS) with the confidence to sustain the system during the World Cup and beyond.

UltraTrak improves security by positively matching the bag to the passenger and can also ensure that baggage has received the required level of screening. Should a passenger fail to board the plane, UltraTrak enables baggage handlers to quickly locate and offload the bag thus reducing departure delays and greatly reducing misdirected baggage costs. UltraTrak also provides flexible baggage tracking facilities enabling users to establish the last known location of any item of baggage.

With Ultra also providing 24/7 support during the Soccer World Cup it ensured that technical assistance was on hand at any time of the day or night. With the exception of a minor fault with a scanner which affected one user out of 378, the system was up and available 100% of the time at South Africa’s four largest airports where UltraTrak is installed.

Juan van Rensburg, Chief Executive Officer of ACS comments: “Ultra provided the capabilities to execute the baggage handling requirements efficiently and expertly, whilst also ensuring there was a confidence that the system would work 100% of the time, and if it didn’t then someone was there to get it fixed, immediately”.

In addition to the World Cup passengers to deal with, South Africa’s newest airport, King Shaka International Airport in Durban, which was built to replace the old Durban International Airport, was brought online and opened literally overnight, just over one month ahead of the World Cup. Although the implementation of the infrastructure and new systems, and all the testing and training was taking place whilst Durban was still operational, on the night before King Shaka was due to open to the general public, Durban airport closed at midnight and King Shaka Airport was up and running and fully functional by 5am the next morning on 1 May 2010. UltraTrak was one of the key systems that needed to be in place and ready for operation.

The baggage reconciliation system has brought benefits other than the smooth running of the World Cup. Productivity has increased and the time taken to reconcile bags has dramatically reduced. The track and trace facility of UltraTrak has meant that the time spent looking for bags has also reduced. With 40% of transfer bags passing through Johannesburg the system now provides improved visibility from the down-line station, providing the information on which bags are onboard and where.

“Ultra’s goal is to provide best-of-breed solutions and support to airports, airlines and ground handlers and we are pleased to have been part of something so mission critical for South Africa,” said Tim Griggs, Head of Business Development at Ultra Electronics Airport Systems.

Looking to the future, an ongoing program of upgrades is planned in line with the continuous training of staff to ensure that all the systems are both up to date but also being managed and utilised to their maximum potential.