Software to save airlines


Airline IT can help preserve the planet for humanity, says IATA.Software can save the airline industry billions in pricey fuel by optimising routes, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In the process, it will limit harmful high altitude carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Speaking at the Airline IT Society`s annual IT summit in Belgium, IATA director-general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani says route-planning software is already doing just that.

“In 2007, IATA saved 10.5 million tonnes of CO2. Our green teams worked with airlines on best practice and we shortened 395 routes. The fuel saved went straight to the bottom line – $2.1 billion.”

“But we must do much more. First, more effective flight planning systems are needed,” Bisignani told an Airline IT Society (Sita) IT summit. “To manage and make the most of these developments, we expect Sita and other system providers to ensure their software optimises fuel use and takes advantage of every improved routing.”

“Second, we need to push governments much harder to move forward with a Single European Sky and NextGen [a next-generation air traffic control system for the US] so we can take advantage of the technology already on the aircraft. And third, we need global harmonisation,” says Bisignani.

“The patchwork of ATM [air traffic management] requirements around the world means we do not always fly with optimum conditions and we carry extra IT kits to cope with the differences. We are a global industry. The infrastructure must be globally harmonised, in line with the global ATM roadmap.”

Bisignani says record level fuel prices have already killed 24 airlines this year and have caused massive retrenchments and flight cutbacks at others. “Look at the announcements we have seen in recent weeks: American Airlines reduces domestic capacity 12%, United by 17% and Continental by 11%.” At the same time: “Gulf State carriers are moving full-steam ahead with high-speed growth.

“We won`t know the right answer. But clearly the decisions are strategic and the risks are high. So it must be supported by the best available decision-making tools, which means state-of-the art route-planning systems fed with the best market data.”

Bisignani told the Sita conference he had some suggested questions for airline CIOs to maximise the value of every available seat:

* How are you doing with universal distribution, including all Web channels, establishing flexible fares that respond to demand and using your new ET database for revenue integrity?
* How good is your cost analysis?
* If labour groups respond to the need for concessions, can you assess the value of different options or produce rosters that use any new productivity?
* With increased utilisation of your more fuel-efficient planes, can you reallocate flights to aircraft based on costs, capacity and demand or manage carefully your slot portfolio with winter cancellations?
* Have you looked at your back-office functions to improve effectiveness?
* Are ERPs [enterprise resource planners] delivering efficiency gains as systems get integrated?
* Are you making the most of the intranet for staff self-service like you use Internet for customer service?

The IATA chief also suggested some pro-green changes on the ground. “Look at your data centres. On average, only 15% of capacity is used, but ventilation, cooling and power is supplied for 100% – all the time.

“You will need to look much more closely at virtualisation to optimise your operations and achieve cost and environmental benefits. The same is true for management of your networks of personal computers, automatic power-off at night, and extending the life and recycling of equipment.”

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