​​​​ Air Transport Settlement System (ATSS) was created at the transition age from planned to market economy. The System is adapting continuously to new requirements of reshaping aviation market in Russia, CIS countries and other states of the World. Its evolution has the following stages:

Preparation

(1991-1992)

Years of «reconstruction and acceleration» have brought the country on the verge of disastrous changes. «Sovereignization» of former Soviet Republics, de-monopolization of all-Union property of Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) and Aeroflot, disintegration of economic relations were at full swing.

In this environment, in early December, 1991, Central Scientific Research Institute of Automated Control Systems of Civil Aviation (CSRIACS CA) held a conference hosting representatives of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Department of Civil Aviation, major aviation enterprises, agencies, airports and aviation scientific community. Concept on Main Principles of Settlement Procedures presented to the participants was adopted as a basis for further development.             

By the end of 1992 General Agreement on Organization and Realization of Settlement for Scheduled Flights between Participants of Air Transport Process was developed.

           
Experts of Central Scientific Research Institute of Automated Control Systems — developers of Settlement System
Top (from left to right):
Alevtin Fraiman, Nikolai Panichersky, Eugene Drozd
Bottom (from left to right):
Irina Shevchenko, Maya Guseva, Alexander Gusev

On December 30, 1992, Department of Air Transport (DAT) of Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation issued Order # ДВ-163, which obliged aviation enterprises to migrate (as from 01.01.93) to direct settlement in accordance with instructions of regulatory and technological documents that were submitted to them earlier in the form of DAT orders and were set forth in General Agreement.
The orders of DAT of RF Ministry of Transport laid down the future structure of management for Settlement System: public Control Council of Settlement (CCS) and Clearing House of Airlines (CHA) in the capacity of executive body of Settlement System.

Establishment

(1993-1997)

Main goals: to establish ATSS administrative bodies; to elaborate the “rules of game”; to ensure complete ​remittance of the airlines’ revenues; to minimize the carriers’ losses; to ensure comprehensive control over revenue flow from agencies to carriers. 

On June 3, 1993 Control Council of Settlement (CCS) was established by the Constituent Assembly with participation of representatives of aviation authorities from 12 independent CIS countries, 20 regional departments and independent aviation enterprises.

Main results of this Stage

  • Clearing House of Airlines (CHA) – an executive authority of the Settlement System - was established in 1994. In 1995, CHA was transformed into Transport Clearing House (TCH), whose founders became 24 major carriers of Russia and CIS. New governing authorities of  Settlement System, i.e. Control Council of Settlement (CCS) and Transport Clearing House (TCH), assumed a part of economic, financial, administrative and technological functions previously performed by Ministry of Civil Aviation of the USSR.

First Chairman of CCS
First President of TCH
Victor Fursov

  • In late 1992 and early 1993, practically all main airlines and agencies signed General Agreement on Settlement for Scheduled Flights that in 1995 was substituted by model  “Airline - TCH” and “TCH - Agency” agreements. In 1997, 179 airlines (129 – from Russia) and 202 agencies signed these model agreements.
  • Concept of Settlement System Development was adopted and the following main goals for this Stage were declared: replacement of traffic documents of Ministry of Civil Aviation of the USSR by multi-coupon traffic documents of international fashion, establishment of control over flow and usage of traffic document forms, ensuring the completeness of payments and guaranteed remittance of revenue by the 16th day after reporting (ten-day) period;
  • A series of basic regulatory technological and organizational documents were developed, i.e. Agency Accreditation Rules, Order of Centralized Administration of Agencies’ Access to Carriers’ Inventories in Air Transportation Reservation Centers of “Sirena-2” Automated System, Provision on Accreditation of Air Transportation Reservation Centers and Requirements to Air Transportation Reservation Centers, Concept of Reservation System Restructuring (concerning the need to create national distribution and reservation system), etc.
  • In 1994, Agency Accreditation Panel was composed from the airlines’ representatives. During the concerned period (1994-1997) 204 agencies were accredited within ATSS at 54 meetings of the Panel. Actually, a new network of comprising agencies and their subagents and sales locations in various regions of Russia, CIS countries and abroad was created. These agencies sold 98% of all the volume of domestic air transportation services.
  • At the close of 1995 and in 1996 the traffic documents of Ministry of Civil Aviation of the USSR were fully replaced by various forms of CHA/TCH traffic documents of international fashion that were registered by aviation authorities of the Russian Federation as “neutral” traffic documents. In 1995 Unified Processing Center of Settlement (UPSC) was established with the purpose of processing of agency reporting and audit coupons of CHA/TCH traffic documents and automated control over the flow and usage of ticket forms.
  • Automated systems of accounting, control and revenue flow through TCH collective account were developed. During this period, Information & Technology Center, databases for TCH Information Fund, TCH E-Mail and Message Interchange System (INFOSED) were created to ensure confidential and legally valid exchange of electronic data between ATSS participants.                  
  • 59 Air Reservation Centers (83% of total number) were accredited. TCH was coordinating activities in development of Computerized Reservation Systems (CRS); new CRSs “Sirena-2000/2.3” matching international standards started to operate instead of “Sirena-2” (Passenger Name Records (PNR) were generated in the databases of new systems).
  • National aviation authorities delegated to TCH due diligence of carriers’ traffic documents and running of accountable forms registry.  
  • An automated system for collection and processing of air transportation statistics (“Statistika”), a unique facility in the post-soviet environment, was developed and implemented in regional aviation administrations and TCH. Its database is used for analysis and forecast of civil aviation development not only by Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation and State Statistics Committee (“Goskomstat”), but by IATA and ICAO, as well.  
  • Comprehensive control over revenue flow through TCH collective account and under direct Carrier – Agency agreements was established.
  • The volume of non-payments (accounts payable) was slashed from 50% in 1992 (estimated) to 1.7% as at 01.01.1998 (including 0.15% via TCH Collective Account), including annual indicators as per year end: 1993 – 25% (8%); 1994 – 15% (6%); 1995 – 8.5% (2.5%); 1996 – 2.8% (0.3%).

Summing up, in new market environment, Settlement System became an integral part of operational activities of airlines, agencies and Aviation Industry as a whole. We managed to ensure full remittance of airlines’ revenues, which was highlighted in the Resolution # 14 of the Board of Federal Aviation Service of Russia dated May 7, 1997.

Enhancement

(1998-2001)

This stage covers the period of adaptation of Settlement System governing authorities, participants and other related systems to the realities such as the crisis of Russian economy («August default» of 1998). Traffic volume was decreasing.

In 1998 indebtedness of agencies settling accounts through TCH amounted to trivial 0.02% of total revenue testifying that, by that time, ATSS in the capacity of economic, financial and administrative instrument was already reliable and financially sound.

Another evidence of confidence to Air Transport Settlement System and TCH reliability as its executive authority was the fact that, following the bankruptcy of “Main Agency of Civil Aviation” State Unitary Enterprise, in early 1999, Federal Aviation Service of Russia decided to incorporate Schedule & Tariffs Center into TCH structure, with its employees and functions including filing of carriers’ fares, developing, co-ordination and updating of timetables, registration and publishing of Russian airport charges.

Thanks to “Statistika” Automated System (implemented in 1996) ensuring generation of a single all-industry statistical database as per performance indicators of Civil Aviation of the Russian Federation based on operational statistics and financial reporting of airlines and airports (10 forms of state reporting, 240 airlines and 200 airports), TCH started to supply data essential for air services regulation to the State Authorities. Thus, TCH position in the operational and economic activities strengthened ever more.

Therefore, in accordance with Air Transport Settlement System Provision and its By-Laws, TCH carries out both the functions of ATSS executive body and a set of state functions assumed under covenants with Russian aviation authorities in the framework of state-and-private partnership without allocation of state budget funds for these functions.

Among other important developments, the following should be highlighted:

  • Coordination of the reservation system restructuring followed by the pilot operations of Airline Distribution System “Sirena-Travel”, designed on the same principles as Global Distribution Systems Sabre, Amadeus, etc., started in 2001.
  • In 2000, the timeframes of agency reporting and remittance of revenue were reduced by three days, and the timeframes of remittance of airlines’ revenues – by five days as compared to the previously applied technology.
  • Implementation of neutral AWB was initiated; the system of cashless settlement for payments by plastic cards, including pre-processor for card authorization installed in TCH, was implemented. 
  • The new fare system for application of route (through) fares was developed alongside with some upgrades in reservation and settlement schemes.
  • Concept of Distribution System for Air Transport and Tourism Services for Russia (on the basis of existing reservation and settlement systems) was approved by CCS.
  • Code of Conduct and Basic Principles of Regulation and Operation of Computerized Reservation Systems for Air Transport of the Russian Federation was developed and approved by Russian Air Transport Operators Association (ATOA) and CCS.
  • Air transportation sales system supporting payment (bank) cards for TCH stock with centralized card settlement via TCH was commissioned.                     

In summing up this stage, we note that Settlement System together with other related systems (reservation, schedule and tariffs) were developing and enhancing for the benefit of their principal participants, i.e. airlines, pushing them to adopt to volatile requirements of Russian market reforms.

The principal mission of Settlement System, i.e. full and timely remittance of revenue to the carriers was achieved. The authority and trustworthiness of ATSS, its decision-making bodies (Conference, CCS) and TCH as the executive body have enhanced in Russian civil aviation industry.

Transition to International Standards and Expansion to New Markets

(2002 - 2009)

The transition of ATSS to international technologies started with adoption by Control Council of Settlement of a number of fundamental resolutions (2002-2003), namely:

  • Introduction of new traffic document forms (for automated and manual issuance) that fully comply with IATA standards and can be used for sale of both domestic and international passenger services enabling to show the accounting code of responsible carrier;
  •  “Sirena-Travel” ADS fitness for operation in compliance with the requirements of Settlement System. In 2002-2003, interfaces between “Sirena-Travel” and foreign inventory systems (Gabriel, Sabre, etc.) based on AIRIMP/EDIFACT were implemented allowing to book and sell international services of Russian and foreign airlines;
  • Accreditation of each agency POS; proposals to harmonize agency codification with ATA/IATA requirements (unique numeric code for each POS). The re-accreditation of agencies and their sales locations in accordance with new requirements was carried out. Registration of accredited POS and agency terminals in the ADS was performed under new rules.
  • Release of Data Interchange Standards Manual complying with international practices and developed on the basis of IATA standards for supply of sales data from ADS to agencies, airlines and TCH enabling “Sirena-Travel” ADS to upload data to TCH Information System in accordance with this standard (RET-files).
  • Implementation of new settlement schemes for air services sold on CCS-TCH STDs covering settlement involving 3-digit carrier accounting codes and interline agreements; necessary upgrades in the systems for settlement, reservation, coding and tariffs were made so as to implement these new schemes.         

The 3rd Conference of Settlement System Participants took place on November 27, 2003 concurring with the 10th anniversary of Settlement System. It approved a new edition of the Provision on Air Transport Settlement System (ATSS) and General Strategy of Settlement System Enhancement for the Forthcoming Period; new members of Carrier Committee, Agency Committee and Control Council of Settlement (CCS) were elected.

Settlement System “Aviatour” was designed and implemented (arrangements for sales, reservation and payments) for selling tours, recreation and wellness services.

The system of automated control over CCS-TCH STD forms usage was commissioned.

The technology enabling to sell air transportation services against PTAs (prepaid ticket advices) was implemented.

The system of on-line professional training of accredited agencies staff (including testing and certification) for operation under ATSS programs was developed and implemented.

The accreditation system for Agency Training Centres was introduced (37 Training Centres with branches were accredited).

Concept for development of Distribution System for Intermodal (air-rail, air-river) Transportation Services was developed.

Concept of ATSS migration to hard currencies (Dollar – Euro – Ruble) for reporting and settlement procedures (“ATSS Multi-Currency Project”) was developed.

A number of user manuals (including agency handbooks for  CCS-TCH ticketing, reservation,  sales and Settlement System) and ATSS Standards were adopted.

Interactive System of Accredited Agencies Reporting was developed and is operating since October 2006.

The 4th Conference of Settlement System Participants, held on December 14, 2006, approved the strategy of ATSS enhancement and development for 2007 - 2009.

Electronic Ticketing System allowing among other things credit card sales of air services issued on CCS-TCH e-tickets via Internet points of sales (IPOS) under secure e-commerce technologies was launched into commercial operation.

ATSS Multi-Currency Project ensuring transition to hard currencies (i.e. RF Ruble/US Dollar/Euro) for reporting and settlement was implemented.

Sales system for railway services (PSSRS) for ATSS agents on the basis of Internet technologies and E-MCO was developed and implemented in cooperation with Russian Railways JSC.

Systems for interactive agency reporting (IAR) and administration of CCS-TCH e-ticket quotas were developed and implemented.

Computerized Reservation Travel System “SPutnik” enabling agencies to book and sell tourist and ancillary (airport, hospitality, etc.) services to be issued on CCS-TCH EMD was accredited within ATSS.

System of interactive agency bonus program and Internet-based monitoring system for ATSS-member airline sales was created and implemented.

New ATSS standards, regulatory and technological documents, particularly designated for passenger services sales via global GDSs and distribution of ancillary (airport, hospitality, tourist, etc.) services were adopted.

Travelport e-ticketing system (GDS Galileo) was certified.

Concept for e-ticket sales and settlement (M2 ET) with carriers on transportation services via hub airports (closed interline) was elaborated.

2008 global financial and economic crisis impacted both airlines and agencies participating in ATSS - since 2006, ATSS lost 22 member carries. To ensure sustainable functioning of Settlement System, CCS Working Groups and TCH Special Response Team for monitoring financial health of agencies and airlines and listing unreliable partners were set up. These teams proved to be efficient.

Since 2006, 15 foreign (i.e. non-CIS) carriers - Air Berlin, NIKI Luftfahrt, Emirates, China Eastern Airlines, Austrian Airlines, MALEV Hungarian Airlines, AirBaltic Corporation, Israir Airlines & Tourism, etc. – joined Settlement System. At late 2009, 112 airlines, including 46 non-RF residents representing 18 countries, participated in ATSS.

E-ticketing launched by ATSS as of December 1, 2006 had covered 62% of transportation sales on CCS-TCH STD stock by the end of 2009.

Phase of Settlement System transition to large-scale implementation of e-technologies and electronic data interchange among ATSS members

(2010 – Present)

On April 22, 2010, the 5th Conference of Settlement System members was held to adopt key workstreams for ATSS development over 2010 – 2013:

  • Large-scale commercial operation of computerized and electronic ticketing for passenger air services in Settlement System in collaboration with national and overseas reservation systems;
  • Large-scale commercial operation of Internet payment systems for travel settlement (e-money), self-services kiosks (electronic banking devices) and other e-commerce facilities in ATSS.
  • Expansion of functionalities of agency interactive reporting, electronic interactive data interchange among ATSS members including interactive monitoring of transportation/services sales on the part of ATSS members.

Ticketing systems of GDSs Sabre and Amadeus were attested in ATSS; sales of transportation on CCS-TCH e-tickets via these GDSs were launched.

Scheduled bus services issued on CCS-TCH e-tickets were initiated via Computerized Reservation Travel System “SPutnik”, under airport, hospitality and other ancillary services project. Sirena-Travel neutral sessions enabled Aeroexpress rail services booking and sales with online Oktogo.ru accommodation service supporting reservation in over 16,500 hotels in Russia and abroad.

E-commerce system for accredited Internet points of sales designated for transportation selling against credit cards with 3D-Secure client identification facility was commissioned.

On the basis of Sirena-Travel distribution system, Electronic Miscellaneous Document (EMD) was implemented in ATSS enabling 100% e-ticketing for sales, refund and exchange of transportation/services. In late 2012, ATSS reported a 96% CCS-TCH e-tiсketing.

New standards for settlement reports covering processed ADM/ACM for carriers and agents were introduced. Regulation for accredited agency training centre was developed.

TCH proposals to amend IATA Recommended Practice 1720а with a new code table for CCS-TCH traffic documents (Form Codes 610 - 619), including EMDs were approved at the meeting of АТА/IATA Joint Passenger Conference and became effective in 2012.

In October 2011, Jurmala (Latvia) hosted the Conference of ATSS members and veterans dedicated to the 20th anniversary of ATSS startup.

In 2012, TCH won National Aviation Prize «Wings of Russia».

In 2012, one more higher-school manual “Introduction to Air Transport Settlement System” by E. Makharev, V. Gorin, A. Russ, R. Surinov, and S. Ilyichev (ed. by Professor E. Makharev and Honored Expert of Transport Industry S. Ilyichev) was published at “Student” Publishing House (Moscow).

On April 17-18, 2013, Jurmala (Latvia) hosted the 6th Conference of Settlement System Participants that summed up ATSS operating outcomes for a 20-year period, as well as CCS work results for 2010 – 2013.

Delegates of the Conference discussed and approved the updated Air Transport Settlement System (ATSS) Provision and revised the election mechanism of CCS Carrier and Agency Committee members on the basis of Carrier and Agency Ranking endorsed by CCS Chairman. In addition, CCS membership was changed to 70 persons as a whole: 15 Presidium members, 35 Carrier Committee members and 30 Agency Committee members. The Conference took note of CCS activities for the past period.

The Conference approved the main routes for Settlement System development for the coming period, namely, development and expansion of the 5th ATSS Participants Conference objectives and, in particular, ATSS 100% migration to e-ticketing for passenger transportation and 100% agency e-reporting to TCH; large-scale implementation of claim handling technology in ATSS through ADM/ACM in the framework of System of Interactive Interchange (SII) (in 2016, renamed to "TCH Connect"); expansion of EMD technologies for all types of services/forms of payment, etc.

As at early 2013, ATSS reported a 96.6% CCS-TCH e-ticketing.

Moreover, the Conference approved the nomination of white paper «ATSS Information Technology Complex» for the Russian Government prize in the field of science and technology.

In 2014, in line with global trends, Russian Settlement System was evolving along the below strategic routes:

- Ongoing enhancement of ATSS and other interconnected systems to increase domestic and international passenger sales on CCS-TCH STDs, as well as involvement of new participant airlines;

- developing of new paths for ATSS evolution for the distribution of a broad range of travel services issued on CCS-TCH e-tickets/EMDs.

Major TCH projects implemented in 2014

  • Electronic Document Management (EDM) system as per agency remuneration invoices;
  • System of Interactive Interchange (SII) between ATSS participants;
  • Migration of ATSS agency claim handling to SII by virtue of international standard ADM/ACM forms;
  • Connecting new payment systems under e-commerce project;
  • Management system for accredited agency deposits;
  • Diversification of hospitality and other ancillary services sellable within ATSS;
  • Involvement of new ancillary providers;
  • TCH Information System (IS) upgrade including software & hardware facility;
  • Commercial operation of ISTOK 2 system;
  • Arrangements for migration to new reporting system;
  • Implementation of “Analitika” - subsystem of computerized system “Statistika”;
  • Implementation of new regulatory technological documents, training courses, and ATSS Standards.

In early 2015, due to changes to RF laws, Transport Clearing House, JSC was conversed to TCH, Public Joint Stock Company (PJSC). TCH top management changed: Mr. Alexander Russ was elected TCH President and Mr. Sergei Ilyichev was elected Chairman of TCH Board of Directors. Boards of CCS Carrier and Agency Committees were updated, as well.​