Digital Transformation in the Air Transport Industry


The air transport industry, till recently was popular for its legacy systems. Cobbled together pieces with single point failure, exposing risks of system wide outages. Cancellations, delays and stranded passengers had become occasional, if not frequent . Though the outages have somewhat reduced – there is still a long way to go! Delta Airlines had to cancel 280 flights recently, as a result of major IT outage (link). Popular British airline, British Airways was left red-faced when they had a system wide outage due to power supply issues (link).

While efforts are being made to make IT systems more reliable, companies are still losing money and reputation over IT snags. Very recently, a major IT software provider’s outage cause delays across airports worldwide (link).

It’s not just the reputation that’s at stake – IT issues that bring the operations to a halt cost a lot. Delta reported an estimated cost of their data center outage last year to be about $150 million. An IT outage at Southwest costed them around $177 million!

Can Cloud Help?

Cloud computing has gained a lot of advocates, promoting Cloud as the solution for all Airline IT woes. But it is really? While migration to the Cloud does help, it is no replacement for badly tested applications. One of the biggest advantages of using Cloud is redundancy. You can backup options and redundancies, spread across various geographical locations. This means that a power outage in your datacenter does not mean a 30 min system shutdown.

There’s also a factor of human error. Using Cloud computing services means you get access to some of the best IT teams, without having to build one. Strict SLAs ensure that your systems are in good hands. Multiple failover points, with redundancies and high level security are already in place.

Better Customer Experience

Apart from the fragile IT systems, Cloud offers other host of benefits. Adopting a Cloud strategy allows businesses  to focus on their core offerings and not worry about the IT. A lot of airlines are investing in making the customer experience better. They offer self-serve kiosks, luggage drops with label printing and self board gates. Implementing such services comes with a lot of technical challenges. They are build on systems that rely on data generated by from various touch points. And it need to be available to all the involved parties – Airline staff, customers, admins and airport staff etc.

Implementing such systems would need major investments from the airlines. Setting up an IT team, building the infrastructure, develop software using old-school models that take forever to get to the market. With Cloud Computing and DevOps ideology, the cost and time required to implement new, novel systems is drastically reduced.

Cloud service providers themselves take care of a lot issues like scalability, elasticity and software upgrades.

Better Operations Management

Air transport industry is probably one of the most operations intensive industries with safety being a top priority. Managing aircraft maintenance, regulatory compliance, safety guidelines, aircraft servicing logs and history. The sheer volume of data and IT infrastructure required to keep things running smoothly is huge. Implementing system based on Cloud services will allow airlines to not only better manage their operations but also keep the cost to a minimum.

There is little doubt that the Aviation sector is in major need of a digital transformation. Not only from a customer’s point of view, but also to streamline their internal operations. While a few airline companies have started experimenting with Cloud based technologies, there is still a long way to go before airlines can fully leverage the power of technology.

In today’s competitive world, reputation, service quality and profits go hand-in-hand. That makes it imperative for airlines to be on the technology forefront.

If you’re considering a Cloud based strategy for your company, our experts will be happy to help!

Madhavan Srinivasan

Managing Director – Products and Solutions