What has IT ever done for us?

My last post on marks out of 10 for IT in the air transport industry reminded me of that great scene in the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian”. 

You remember when Reg (John Cleese) demands to know “What have the Romans ever done for us?” and the answer comes from his followers: aquaducts, sanitation, roads, education, wine, public baths, keeping order (who else could in a place like this?), fresh water system, medicine, irrigation and peace….. 

It can be a bit like that with IT and the aviation industry.

So –  “what has IT ever done for the aviation industry, then?”  

Well let’s see:

  • Frequent Flyer Programmes – which really started as glorified customer databases;
  • Global Distribution Systems – which were a world-wide web decades before anyone ever thought of global computing
  • Passenger Service Systems on Amadeus, Sabre and Galileo – Cloud Computing 20 years before anyone thought of that, as well
  • Revenue Accounting – settlement across many airlines around the World
  • Optimised engineering inventory
  • SITA/Equant – a global network of telecommunications for airlines and airports, started in 1949, reaching areas no national Telco could go
  • Revenue Management – the appliation of the most sophisticated mathematical and statistical techniques to selling airline tickets in advance of any other industry
  • 100% eTickets
  • Selling online – a core part first of the Low Cost Carrier model and now all airlines
  • Online check-in
  • Self-Service Kiosks
  • Self-printed boarding passes – from home
  • Online management of your booking
  • Dynamic packaging of flights, hotels and car hire
  • Automated re-booking during disruptions
  • Mobile boarding passes
  • Connectivity in flight

(and all this is not even going near avionics and the new technologies on the B787 and A380).

It is intriguing to note that many of these innovations came in the last decade.  I personally believe that many of the key innovations in aviation in the next decade will come from smart deployment of new technology.

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

5 Responses to What has IT ever done for us?

  1. Douglas Holland says:

    To above I would add:
    1) The introduction into the more Modern Schedules Planning, Operations Control and Crewing Systems of Rules base Design Support (been around a while, previously low adoption).
    2) The still slow introduction of Rules Based Decision Support into Maintenance Planning/Line Maintenance Systems
    3) Vendors Systems providing documented shipped API’s that allow linking to other Vendors Products and Legacy Systems.
    4)The interfacing of Airports systems to Web Applications to provide Flight Information to PC/Mac and Mobile Devices and more recently the use of Social Networks to provide immediate updates.
    5) More widespread adoption of the Wireless Transmission of Data from DCS/Load Control Systems to Airside Staff to update them on Changes to Plan, or urgent messages.
    6) More general implementation of onboard Cabin Management Systems (long history low adoption)
    I sure I’ll think of More but…
    Not sure I totally on topic, but hopefully acceptable!

  2. Douglas Holland says:

    D PaulCoby You probably have seen this ..but just in case – SITA: What are the 5 things this will change in air travel by 2020? http://ow.ly/3avTt

  3. Paul
    Great point.
    IT has given us a great deal !
    IT has given the passengers much, much more however.
    Pretty much all of the savings and efficiencies generated by IT are passed on to the customers, such is the nature of the competitive environment.
    So IT has given the customers more opportunities to buy lower fares than ever before.
    This is missing from your list.
    Kind regards

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