Is This Any Way To Run An Airline?

Delta Airlines has just come off a challenging week for their customers and themselves after disrupting thousands of flights and untold numbers of customers. Delta is not alone:

  • In June 2016, Southwest Airlines suffered a similar outage impacting 2300 flights over a few days
  • In September 2015, American Airlines suffered for 6 hours with a rolling impact of hundreds of flights over several days
  • The United/Continental merger has suffered several outages since 2010

Delta’s I.T. infrastructure is based on the infrastructure from a now defunct airline acquired back in 1982. This is not a typo. 1982. Can you imagine how hard it is to maintain such systems?

Come to think of it, how much of our nuclear war infrastructure is based on antiquated technology? The Federal Aircraft Administration (FAA) air traffic control system? The system for managing railroads? Banking and finance?

From an August 13, 2016, article in The Economist titled All Systems Stop, comes this insight:

…they are reluctant to replace their systems. For an airline, it would cost billions of dollars and take five years to do. Worse still, no single IT firm has the skills to provide all the software needed for a complete replacement. With the average tenure of airline CEOs so short, the risks of such a project going wrong outweigh the benefits. It is hard for any firm to entirely eliminate IT glitches; for many it simply isn’t worth it.

This suggests air travelers need to “get used to” major service interruptions. Since all airlines have similar vulnerabilities, no airline sees the need to take serious action to innovate to more fault-tolerant systems.

Is this any way to run an airline? Apparently so.

Thought for the week:

“I’m here to build something for the long-term. Anything else is a distraction.” – Mark Zuckerberg

What do you think? I welcome your comments! Dave Gardner

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