How Scalable Infrastructure Lets Airlines Soar to New Heights

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By: Esther Shein|

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With summer travel season in full swing, it’s imperative for airlines to have scalable infrastructure and solid business continuity processes that ensure they can handle downtime events. Though airlines are under considerable pressure to keep costs down, they also need to stay current with the latest technologies, such as the cloud, big data, virtualization and mobility. A scalable IT infrastructure may be the best option for airlines, as it will afford them greater flexibility and responsiveness, enabling them to better serve their customers in the event planes are grounded.

What Scalable Infrastructure Means for Airlines

New technology can help airlines streamline their operations and reduce costs. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, analytics systems that enable real-time resource planning and allocation promote greater asset use while decreasing maintenance time. When performance issues occur, engines embedded with advanced sensor technology can notify maintenance and operation centers while a plane is still in the air so a new part can be waiting when it lands. This can reduce downtime and improve performance while still lowering costs and increasing passenger satisfaction with more frequent on-time arrivals and departures.

Further, today’s reservation systems are introducing new functionalities that provide improved customer insights and a better customer experience. Whereas travel agents used to book flights and check for seat availability, customers are now booking their own flights more frequently, and this self-service is straining airline IT systems. Cloud-based systems can help airlines cope with the increased volume in searches for flights and seat inventory, especially during peak travel times.

Nonetheless, one of the main challenges for airlines is integrating the legacy systems they’ve used for years with these newer technologies.

“Today, those systems have layers and layers of complexity built in, making them cumbersome and costly in many cases,” according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

Legacy hardware-centric infrastructure simply cannot handle the demands of advanced analytics systems and cloud computing. That’s why airlines need to consider investing in scalable IT infrastructure that can efficiently scale resources to meet the workload requirements created by newly implemented technologies.

Infrastructure to Support Customer Analytics

Demand for automated and self-service processes is driving growth in smart airport infrastructure, a market Transparency Market Research expects will grow from $7.56 billion in 2015 to around $19.33 billion in 2024. Advanced customer analytics systems can help airlines provide an improved passenger experience and more targeted offerings, such as self-service kiosks and mobile apps. These tools let customers handle their own travel-related processes — such as booking flights, hotels and car rentals, checking into a flight, printing boarding passes and monitoring flight status — without putting added pressure on the airline’s back-end. At the same time, customer analytics allow airlines to capture more meaningful data about customer preferences, which enables them to provide significantly better service and help gain loyalty.

However, scalable infrastructure is also needed for baggage processing, ground operations, communications, asset management, passenger processing and maintenance repair and overhaul. All of this requires a common technological framework to underpin the self-service initiatives. If there isn’t one, the airline may be setting itself up for impending system downtime — an unforgivable offense for many travelers.

Don’t Forget Business Continuity Planning

When a system goes down, it results in lost productivity, a poor customer experience and, ultimately, lost revenue. System outages can also have a lasting impact on an airline’s brand. For this reason, airlines need to develop business continuity and disaster recovery plans to minimize the impact of any unforeseen events and ensure systems remain available.

For example, business continuity management (BCM) programs can help airlines quickly identify and contain data breaches that could take down their key systems. Companies with a BCM program identify data breaches 26 percent faster, according to the Ponemon Institute’s 2016 Cost of a Data Breach study. The study also found companies with a BCM program could reduce data breaches by 29 percent over the next two years. Breach containment was 40 percent faster for those with a BCM plan, as well.

Airlines cannot afford to simply maintain the status quo when it comes to infrastructure and business continuity. Scalable infrastructure is a powerful tool that helps airlines evolve and increase efficiency while cutting costs and developing better customer relationships.

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About The Author

Esther Shein

Freelance Writer

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, business and education. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including Inc., Computerworld, NetworkComputing, InformationWeek, BYTE, CIO, CMO.com and The Boston Globe. She has written thought leadership whitepapers, customer case studies and marketing materials in addition to news and feature articles. Prior to going freelance she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, an online enterprise technology magazine. She was also a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week) and worked at The Associated Press.

Articles by Esther Shein
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