A world-class airport transforms for growth

Aymeric Dussart led Aéroports de Montréal through groundbreaking infrastructure improvements to accelerate innovation during a historic pandemic and create a better traveler experience.  

Story highlights

  • Cisco software-defined networking architecture enabled faster, safer airport navigation for travelers.
  • Best practices from Cisco CX reduced risk and accelerated migration.
  • A strong, reliable network aligned to business needs helped optimize the passenger experience.

The story

 Aymeric Dussart is CIO at Aéroports de Montréal. He is responsible for the infrastructure, technology, and applications the airport requires to operate. Dussart discusses how Cisco CX worked closely with Cisco partner Wipro to keep digital transformation moving forward during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) is the airport authority responsible for the city's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International (YUL) Airport as well as Mirabel International (YMX) Airport. These facilities serve more than 20 million passengers a year from all over the world, an all-time high prior to the pandemic, as well as a vast array of cargo operations. Our focus is all about the passenger experience. Our goal is for the passengers to feel like they're starting their vacations—or stress-free business trips—as soon as they get to the terminal. That traveler experience is directly related to passenger satisfaction and revenue per passenger, which are key metrics for us.

Today's travelers have ever-changing expectations in terms of speed, mobility, and convenience. To meet these expectations, our IT organization set a goal of ensuring that every passenger would enjoy a superior travel experience from the moment they arrive at the airport to the moment they board the plane. We also wanted to assume a more strategic role in overall airport operations and contribute to the bottom line. In other words, we wanted to do more than simply "keep the lights on." We wanted to build and maintain a strong, reliable, and resilient technological foundation for all the applications and systems present at the airport to optimize the customer experience.

Our IT team has always been great at automating processes and adding services—but we needed to build on that. We were managing approximately 150 technology systems at our airports, such as aircraft movement management, passenger check-in, baggage systems, and mobile apps for end users. But none of these critical activities would be possible without a consistently stable and reliable network. 

We turned to Cisco partner Wipro, known for its expertise in providing consulting services to airports in the areas of advanced passenger navigation and airport amenities. Wipro recommended a software-defined network (SDN) infrastructure solution from Cisco to support new capabilities like touchless check-in, kiosks and bag drop, remote agent assistance, touchless feedback, and zero-trust security to keep data and communications safer. 

Turning a historic pandemic into an opportunity

And then the COVID-19 outbreak changed our world completely in a matter of weeks. By the end of April 2020, we were serving only about 10 percent of the volume of passengers we had before the pandemic—the terminal was literally empty. However, the global pandemic forced us to dramatically scale back our operations while we were in the very early stages of our migration to the Cisco solution. The crisis also caused a reduction in staffing, further limiting our flexibility.

Nonetheless, we saw the temporary decline in passengers as an opportunity to accelerate our transformation effort and to upgrade our network without service interruptions. The idea was to have a new network infrastructure in place to welcome passengers back when travel would resume post-pandemic. 

Reaching cruising altitude

Our digital transformation plan was ambitious. The Cisco SDN architecture would enable us to automate provisioning and configuration to deliver the services we needed faster—and allow us to continuously align the network to our business needs.

To ensure that the technologies we put in place would deliver the outcomes we needed, we reached out to the Cisco CX Business Critical Services team for strategic guidance and best practices. The team worked closely with our IT organization and Wipro to plan and design the SDN infrastructure solution at a high level, develop and implement our migration strategy, and provide the testing and training needed to help us succeed over the long term.

One of the biggest advantages of Cisco CX is that they brought industry experience that really accelerated the design process. When you're moving back and forth with designs and iterating, it saved time to simply ask Cisco what kind of best practices they would apply if this were a different airport.

– Aymeric Dussart, CIO, Aéroports de Montréal

As part of the planning phase, Cisco Business Critical Services considered our strategy and vision, and provided best-practice guidance on the specific steps required to put everyone on the same page to achieve our intended outcomes. This strategic guidance simplified complexity, reducing the length of the process and diminishing the risk of outages.

For example, the Cisco Business Critical Services team worked closely with Wipro to ensure that the migration from our legacy environment to Cisco Catalyst 9300 Series switches would not only provide the same capabilities, but also support new capabilities as we add services in the future. Cisco Business Critical Services also collaborated with our team and Wipro to configure our Cisco ASA 5500-X appliances with Firepower Services to support next-generation firewall services, enabling them to strengthen cybersecurity.

To help us get the most out of our investment over the long term, Cisco Business Critical Services also provided training support to Wipro and our team, to help us manage and maintain the solution and ensure consistent performance. 

Without Cisco Business Critical Services, we would probably have spent a lot of time discussing and questioning the design and not have the same level of certainty that we made the right architectural decisions. We had been looking for collaborative support throughout the project, and that is what we got.

– Aymeric Dussart, CIO, Aéroports de Montréal  

Next steps: Nonstop innovation

We now have a foundation to support new services and applications. We are working to enable strategic capabilities like biometrics-enabled contactless travel, as well as improved, non-aero revenue through e-commerce-enabled intelligent, connected systems. Our new agile infrastructure also delivers the speed and performance required to support capabilities such as AI-enabled passenger assistance, self-service baggage drop off, or baggage tracking using blockchain.

We see a significant opportunity to continue to evolve and enhance the customer experience even more by engaging digitally with them. Our internal customers—the airport's different lines of business—are also happy. We can now explore new technologies to support airport operations, whose proper execution is critical to the quality of the passenger experience.

Ultimately, seeing the smiles on our passengers' faces as they return to the airport and spend time in the terminals is what makes it all worthwhile.

And it was all made possible by the accelerated transformation we achieved with Cisco CX.

Industry: Transportation

Company size: 600 employees and 20.3 million passengers per year in 2019

Location: Montréal, Quebec