These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys the chaos of airline travel. Most of us have anxiously awaited takeoff for lengthy amounts of time, de-boarded the aircraft due to maintenance issues, or had the pleasure of losing our luggage. But for Southwest Airline flyers, there’s some good news; Addison-based software developer, projekt202, is working with the company to improve flight-time performance and ground operations, resulting in a better overall customer experience.
Southwest Airlines, operates over 180 flights out of Love Field on a daily basis, yet they’ve been functioning on antiquated tools – logbooks, radio, pneumatic tubes, and whiteboards. All of that is about to change with OpsSuite, a web-based app package that handles many of the tasks that ensure travelers make it safely from destination A to destination B, built by projekt202.
According to a recent article, the project began over three years ago and “One of OpsSuite’s biggest selling points is making it easier for Southwest’s employees and contractors to see when a task was completed, and allowing employees thousands of miles apart to collaborate digitally on tasks like tracking in-transit aircraft, making sure gates are prepped for arrival, and overseeing equipment maintenance without picking up the phone or sending a fax.”
While it won’t be an easy transition, it will benefit Southwest’s approximate eight million flyers immensely, helping to handle gate management, turn management, and tarmac delay management. And when it comes to cancellations or delays, it has a tie-in for employees (The Baker) which offers alternative routes.
The Baker is just one more element in the airline’s digital upgrade. The aforementioned article release notes that the recovery optimization engine recently “helped lead to on-time performance on days with poor weather or other challenges that was 10%-15% higher than similar days before the system was adopted. During three major snowstorms in the winter of 2016, it contributed to on-time performance of over 70%.” To provide a little perspective, this resulted in Southwest largely outperforming its bigger competitors like Delta and American during those storms.
It’s all part of a larger technological renovation totaling at 800 million dollars; $300 million invested in new technology for operations and $500 million in a new reservation system. So, when will it be completed? Well, it’s going to take a while to implement, but they’re aiming for 2018.
The first step to understanding the process, is recognizing why airline corporations are so behind technologically. For starters, their software options are limited. “Unlike retail banking and some other industries where there is a lot of widely available software and systems that might be used,” explains Henry Harteveldt – of industry analyst Atmosphere Research Group – in the article, “airlines tend to use industry-specific software only from a handful of providers.” He goes on to explain that the unique challenge lies in the fact that, as a result, only a small number of applications power hundreds or thousands of other applications.
It sounds simple enough, but the real problem comes with the setup of a new system and software – as you can imagine, any type of delay can significantly effect an airline, and one delay has a trickledown effect that negatively impacts business. One example of such was January’s major computer outage which grounded United domestic flights, in addition to a five-hour-long systems outage at Delta which ended up costing the airline $150 million.
For these reasons, projekt202 is working with Southwest and taking it’s time to replace a complex system. They’re, likewise, ensuring airline employees are comfortable switching over to the software and familiar with its functionality.
OpsSuite didn’t take long to prove highly effective with a tool that helps with decision making when the airline is dealing with bad weather or delays. “Ironically, days after the launch of (OpsSuite’s) first test, the airport in Austin was hit with a Texas-sized storm that cut power to the entire facility for 24 hours,” projekt202’s Co-founder, Peter Eckert, said in the same article, “Using the new tool set included in their OpsSuite system, Southwest personnel were able to recover from the weather even faster than before.”
It’s a project that has slowly but surely demanded attention, and is incredibly deserving of praise, and Southwest has projekt202 to thank for it. Located along Spectrum Drive here in Addison, projekt202 is the leader in applying experience strategy and observational insights to the development of mobile, cloud, web and workplace software. As their website states, they’re actively redefining the user experience and changing the ways people interact with technology around the world.
“We have a unique and established methodology for understanding people in context – we reveal unmet needs – which drives everything we do. This leads to a crisp, clear understanding of the customer, which shapes the design and development of new solutions and experiences.”