From build to buy: American Airlines changes modernization course midflight

By Robert L. Mitchell and Johanna Ambrosio, Computerworld |  IT Management

Airport agents use "Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere" mobile check-in devices to access current flight information, print boarding passes, check bags, print bag tags and perform other tasks. These devices are purpose-built, not off-the-shelf mobile hardware like tablets or smartphones.

Pilots will soon replace their flight bags with an electronic version that runs on an iPad. American estimates that eliminating the 35-lb bags from every cockpit will save the airline $1.2 million of fuel annually.

-- Robert L. Mitchell

For the last 47 years, both PSS and FOS have run on Sabre, a mainframe-based system that now lacks the flexibility and speed to market that the airline needs to compete. American began its modernization initiative with the launch of two projects several years ago.

The Jetstream project will replace the current PSS, which handles reservations and other customer-facing functions, while Horizon has already begun replacing many of the applications that make up the FOS, responsible for flight operations functions such as route planning and crew scheduling.

"Tackling these two important systems gives us the opportunity to rethink the customer experience as well as get away from massive, monolithic systems...that make it more difficult for us today to be responsive to customer needs in the marketplace," says Maya Leibman, American's CIO.

While American says that the projects are about cost savings and faster time to market, more is at stake here, says Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel analyst with Atmosphere Research Group. "It's about how these new systems can help American generate more money," by creating new revenue-generating opportunities.

For her part, Leibman declined to go into specifics about the revenue-generation aspect.

The new systems interconnect applications using Web services and enterprise service buses (ESBs) that are part of the airline's service-oriented architecture (SOA). This will allow American to do things like share data in real time between applications, whether those run on or off the mainframe. A Horizon application might need to know, for instance, that a specific plane has been delayed, or that weather is threatening one city, or that a particular series of jets needs FAA-ordered maintenance.

One ESB, Flight Hub, can pull data from the FOS on the mainframe, or directly from other applications designed to run in the new, distributed computing environment.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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