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Airport check-in, gates more fluid

– Most passengers will not be immediately aware of the newly acquired technology at Fort Wayne International Airport – unless their flights are delayed or they are waiting to board a plane during inclement weather.

In the past, each airline had its own gate and check-in counter with corresponding hardware and software to process incoming and outgoing passengers, and Delta Airlines had the majority of the gates, said Dave Young, the airport’s vice president of air service development.

But now the check-in counters and gates can be switched seamlessly, allowing for expansion when necessary and contraction when needed. This will lead to savings and make Fort Wayne International Airport more attractive to airlines, Young said.

The airport has four enclosed gates on the second level and four outside gates downstairs, Young said. When possible, the airport uses the second-floor gates to ensure the comfort of the passengers, he said.

“But there was a huge logistics problem if we suddenly had three American Airlines planes that needed a gate,” since they only had one, Young said.

With the new technology and the switch of a button, any one of the airport’s gates and check-out counters are able to instantly accommodate any airline.

“We were maxed-out here,” Young said, “but with this program, we will be able to almost double our aircraft processing capacity.”

The good news for passengers, he said, is fewer delays and increased comfort while traveling. The end result for the airport is increased flexibility, the ability to accommodate additional flights and decreased costs for the airlines, he said.

Mark Sapp of Air-Transport IT Systems Inc., the company behind the technology, said Fort Wayne International Airport is ahead of the game.

“With this move, they have stepped to the head of the class in the region,” Sapp said.

“The old thought at airports was to be fully leased,” Sapp said. But in today’s business world, “the move is toward being fully utilized, instead.”

The airlines should also realize a cost-savings as a result, Sapp said.

“With this technology, if Allegiant is only flying into Fort Wayne two times a week, they will not have to compensate for the time that their gate is not being utilized,” as in the past, Sapp said.

The system is supported in part by a Small Community Air Service Development grant of nearly $250,000 through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Fort Wayne location was the first and only airport in the country to get a grant for a technology project such as this, Young said.