Tomorrow's world

The airline industry is still struggling to keep pace with advancements in the world's technology.

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By  Lizzie Cernik Published  May 14, 2008

A quiet, riverside location in Bangkok was the setting for last month's Horizons 2008, a two day event covering Amadeus' latest airline IT systems.

Social network MySpace, i-phones and digital imagery may have pushed the world's technological boundaries, but the airline industry is still struggling to keep pace.

According to Edward Nicol, CIO of Chinese carrier Cathay Pacific, there are two reasons for airline bosses' reluctance to upgrade IT technology. Firstly, commercial carriers notoriously operate over budget, making expensive systems difficult to afford.

I would say 10 minutes is too long to complete a booking [online]. We think it should take no more than five or six minutes.

Secondly, with most carriers unwilling to invest in state-of-the-art systems, few rival airlines have a technological advantage. Nevertheless, analysts believe carriers that once eschewed new software can no longer afford to operate without the latest state-of-the-art systems.

Indeed, passenger demand for speedier check-in, coupled with IATA's mandate for all airlines to introduce 100% e-ticketing by June, is forcing carriers to update their IT technology.

It's a subject well known to the airline delegates gathered in Bangkok last month for Amadeus' Horizons conference. The two day event focused on the IT system developer's latest technology strategies, covering e-commerce, IT and global distribution systems (GDS).

Tehmton Cooper, head of global contact centres and e-commerce for Etihad Airways, believes Amadeus' latest software complements the airline's facilities. Moreover, he insists the new high-tech IT systems are an integral part of the Abu Dhabi-based carrier's sales and service proposition.

Since its launch four years ago, Etihad has worked with the IT company, incorporating several programmes such as in-house booking system Altea suite and online check-in.

Cooper says he is impressed with the products' adaptability, which enables Etihad executives to effectively market the brand.

"We have a unique factor which is miles plus cash [passengers using points accumulated from previous flights to reduce ticket prices]; we are the only airline to do that," he says. "We use it for different types of promotion, so it's a very flexible product."

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