February 2, 2015 | Written by: Maamar Ferkoun
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In a bitterly competitive business environment, the airline industry has gone to great lengths cutting costs and reducing the workforce. In the process, major air transport companies have been losing out to budget companies operating at a lower cost by using more agile processes while delivering better quality of service.
So how could cloud computing be a game changer in the industry and assist in addressing today’s air transport imperatives?
We will look at two areas among many that affected by the gradual adoption of cloud computing, self-service facilities and aircraft maintenance.
Customer experience and self-service facilities
When it comes to servicing passengers, airlines are looking at cloud technologies to deliver services such as luggage drops with label printing and self-boarding gates. This is based on all the data generated from check ins, bookings and reservation systems, including customer details (required for visas and security clearances), that is centrally located and validated. The data is also easily accessible to airline staff, passengers, security personnel, and others who are entitled to some form of information access.
There is no need to expand the IT infrastructure or increase the IT workforce, since the service provider can cater to the scalability and elasticity required to handle any workload. There would be no software updates and upgrades to be attended to, or IT facilities to maintain. Airlines will focus on their core business—transporting passengers.
(Related: How cloud is helping the agriculture industry grow)
Another area where cloud computing applies the same principle is aircraft maintenance. With an ever complex environment, the need to be able to order, replace and maintain a wide array of aircraft components while at the same time keeping abreast of the latest technology, safety guidelines, regulatory compliance, aircraft servicing logs and history is vital. See how WestJet, a successful airline, implemented a cloud computing method for its management of aircraft maintenance records, or how Endeavor Air selected the same cloud computing-based system for its aircraft maintenance records management. Virgin America has also adopted this cloud computing-based system.
While we have seen cloud computing applied to just two distinct areas of the industry, I could have used examples involving travel time estimation, aircraft identifications, emission controls, traffic modeling, integrated fare management, customer loyalty programs and asset optimization.
It is therefore no surprise that, according to the Air Transport Industry Insights Airport IT Trend Survey of 2013, 49 percent of airports expect to evaluate cloud services through trials and pilot studies over the next three years. At the same time, it predicted that by 2016, major programs dedicated to cloud computing will reap 22 percent of new infrastructure initiatives while 49 percent will put cloud computing on trial and evaluation.
Cloud computing is by all means no panacea to improving productivity and allowing for ever greater flexibility, but it is certainly becoming an important contribution and testament to what is the ever-growing adoption pattern by the airline industry.