Are you flying with first-class tech

Written by David Brett | Updated: Aug 28 2009, 03:26am hrs
Even if you work in the travel industry, you are also a passenger and a customer of airlines when you travel. Think about your own travel habits. When selecting an airline to fly with, you consider a number of factors. Price is probably a major consideration, and of course you will select the airline that offers flights at times that are most convenient. Maybe you are willing to compromise on price for a flight at the right time, or vice-versa. You might have a preferred airline because of its reliability for fast check-in and on-time departures. You may be more concerned about the in-flight experiencedo they offer good entertainment, a nice meal and creature comforts such as blankets and pillows. But I bet you have never considered which airline has a superior IT system, and in the past it probably wouldnt have mattered, with most airlines operating on a similar IT infrastructure.

But today, IT is something that you should be aware of. Why Because todays modern airline IT systems have the ability to alter the travel experience dramatically, from booking through to check-in and baggage handling.

Do you have a story of travel gone wrong Almost everyone has one. A story to tell about the time they flew with a particular airline and things went horribly wrong. Perhaps while booking wrong passenger details were recorded or the Web site crashed at the crucial moment. Or when checking in, the airline had no record of the booking. Lost baggage, frequent flyer points that never materialise the list of horror stories goes on. What most passengers dont realise is that many of these issues can be avoided if the airline is using intelligent IT systems.

Right now, many airlines are still using what are known as legacy IT systemsin other words, dinosaur software that is no longer capable of handling the demands that are placed on a modern-day airline. They sometimes cannot cope with the vast number of bookings and there is a lot of room for error if information is entered incorrectly. If a carrier decides to merge with another airline or join an alliance such as OneWorld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance, their systems will not be compatible and the partnership wont operate seamlessly if one wants to book flights between partners.

However, many airlines are moving towards a change that will enhance your travel experience. Despite the fact that the global recession has hit the airline industry hard, many carriers have signed up to shift their technology to a new platform that will help them survive and prosper. Why now Perhaps because the crisis has forced the airlines to analyse their systems and processes, to trim back on costs and to ensure that customers remain loyal.

When airlines operating on legacy systems consider the capabilities of their IT, it is clear that there is a huge gap, and only a change to a more modern system can help. More than 70 airlines globally have come to this realisation, and are outsourcing their IT. The Star Alliance has chosen to use Amadeus next-generation Altea CMS as its Common IT Platform. This helps these airlines to reduce both the ongoing costs of IT development and maintenance, improve their operational capabilities and offer an enhanced and consistent level of customer service across their partnership.

In Asia Pacific, many players are wise to this trend and are on their way to an IT transformation. Last year, Qantas became the first airline globally to complete migration to Amadeus Customer Management System Altea. Singapore Airlines, V Australia, Cathay Pacific are among the others who are in the process of revolutionising their IT with Amadeus. Technology is becoming the key differentiating factor between those airlines who are prepared for the future and those that arent.

At the recent the Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, said that three factors are crucial in running a business and navigating turbulent timescreativity, brand innovation and technology. The secret to staying in the black, even through dips in the travel cycle, is to create a streamlined, flexible company model that can easily adapt to changing circumstances and new opportunities. In order to do that, one needs to be a more advanced, more cunning user of IT than ones competitors.

So next time you fly, consider all the steps in the journey that can be vastly improved with the help of first-class IT. You will soon see that the future of the airline industry lies in a decision that almost all airlines are facing right now. Will they fight to make their existing technology bend and stretch in ways that it is not designed to, and continue to experience the problems that make a passenger, like yourself, less satisfied Or will they choose to future-proof their business by choosing cutting-edge IT that is intuitive to passenger needs, and improves not only the travel experience, but also the carriers bottom line The Asia Pacific aviation industry is certainly beginning to see the light and show the way forward, as more carriers move towards first-class IT systems that will help them to navigate the future and come out on top.

The writer is president, Amadeus Asia Pacific