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IATA’s CUPPS Standard: A Critical Analysis

CUPPS: A critical analysis & review of common use passenger processing systems.


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Common use systems are an important tool in the provision of air transportation that can create significant economic benefits to airlines, airports, and passengers. The future of common use technology is, therefore, important to any person or entity that provides or utilizes commercial air transportation.

By promoting the adaption of CUPPS as an industry standard, IATA’s goal is to reduce the costs of common use systems that are incurred by airports and
airlines with simultaneously increasing system functionality and reducing dependence on proprietary hardware and software. Unfortunately, CUPPS
doesn’t fully achieve these objectives. While there are some incremental benefits, CUPPS does not allow commercial aviation to realize the true
potential benefit of common use technology.

There are, however, alternative common use systems available today and which provide functionality that is superior to CUPPS at a lower cost. These
systems are based on the concept of “virtualization” which has seen rapid growth in recent years, particularly due to improvements in Internet security.

In reviewing data sources and preparing this paper, Boyd Group International came to the following conclusions:

From the outset, it is important to state that we believe IATA’s working group charged with development and implementation of CUPPS standards initiated the process with the best of intentions and with a sincere desire to improve common use technology.

After seven years of development, IATA’s CUPPS standard represents an incremental improvement over current common use systems, but to realize those benefits airports and airlines will have to invest in new hardware, develop custom software applications, and fund complex certification processes. In this context, return on investment becomes an open question.

Multiple vendors have developed common use systems based on virtualization that allow airlines to realize all the functionality of their own computer systems without the need for special hardware or custom software solutions. These factors translate into a better solution for common use at a lower cost.

There are better approaches to common use that offer greater functionality and flexibility at a lower initial and recurring cost to updating airport common than IATA’s CUPPS standard.

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