A Departure Control System (DCS) automates processing an airlines' airport management operation. This includes managing the information required for airport check-in and printing boarding card, baggage acceptance, boarding, load control and aircraft checks.
Today DCS mostly (98%) manage electronic tickets via interfaces from range of devices including check-in kiosks, online check-in, mobile boarding cards, and baggage handling. DCS are able to identify, capture and update reservations from an airlines Computer Reservation System for passengers stored in a so-called Passenger Name Record (PNR). A DCS is used to update reservations, typically as checked-in, boarded, flown or another status.
Additionally and increasingly a DCS for some city-pair sectors may also be connected with immigration control for visa, immigration and passenger no-fly watchlists.
Historically systems developed in North America have incorporated DCS functions as part of the reservations systems with check-in being initiated directly from the PNR. Load control (weight and balance) is then provided by a standalone application. Systems developed by airlines outside North America have traditionally had a separate database for DCS, requiring passenger data to be transferred from the PNR into DCS records. These systems have an integrated weight and balance capability.
So-called "new generation" DCSs are being developed and deployed by vendors such as Amadeus and SITA as part of the overall re-engineering of airline Passenger Services Systems. These new systems typically use a common database and a services oriented architecture that allows reservations, check-in and other services to maintain a consistent view of passenger information.
Larger international airports will have a range of DCS or a single DCS which each particular airline carrier can integrate with for streamlined operations.
The first single-server, PC-based departure control system was developed by ICCI - Airline System in Westlake Village, California in 1987. The first installation was carried out by Unisys in 1988 for Aerovias de México in Mexico City. (Unisys was an ICCI - Airline Systems licensed reseller, as was IBM.) The ICCI-DCS had additional airport modules added, the first being the flight information display system followed by the signage system to control checking counters/departure gate electronic signage. This new system was then installed in Phoenix, Arizona for America West Airlines; EDS was the primary vendor.