Quality Assurance · Software testing

How Software Quality Engineering Can Help Airlines Stay Successful

Delta Air Lines, a major American airline, ended up cancelling and delaying nearly half of all its flights. Initially broadcasted as a power outage that led to a computer meltdown, the incident occurred in the wee hours of Monday. Meanwhile, Delta’s flight-status updates were also not working, compounding problems for passengers.

Passengers feel the regression of technology as they relate these incidents to how systems functioned in the old days. ”Maybe they will let us smoke on the plane, and give us five-star meals in-flight too!” commented one particular passenger.

Airlines have a complex and overlying network of systems in order to perform various functions, a few of which are:

  • Running of flight tickets
  • Boarding of passengers
  • Scheduling of crews

Owing to this overlap, even short outages that cause the airline to be crippled from a technological standpoint can result in utter mayhem in the airlines process. Bad system designs can make fixing real-time issues a living nightmare, and affect various channels of business. Even a tiny software glitch that prevents kiosk check-in, such as the one in this case can result in a domino effect. When flights do not take-off as per schedule, there is no space on the runway for other expected incoming flights. Hence, it is crucial in to invest a significant amount in the software of the airline systems.

Not too long ago, another major US airline, also one of the world’s largest low-cost carriers, experienced a similar computer meltdown. This led to the cancellation of a couple thousand flights over the corresponding few days. Incidents of this sort result in massive financial and reputation losses. Some may argue that a stoppage of power supply does not qualify as a software issue. The following 8 reasons state why there is an increasing necessity for strategic implementation of integrated Quality Engineering, in the airlines industry.

  1. The industry is moving towards investing in smart systems so as to deliver accurate information. The Internet of things (IoT) will enable an easier ‘way-finding’, or knowing when exactly to arrive at a said location – for example, the boarding gate. Passengers will leverage technology and be able to track their luggage. Availability of such information saves valuable time.
  2. The airlines are planning on making mobile apps the go-to technology for self-service or customer service. Booking and shopping are set to be transformed with “smart” retail outlets, thereby opening several lifestyle possibilities.
  3. Customers are looking for innovation to make their travel as trouble-free as possible. Not just mobile phones, but airlines are also looking to send basic booking and boarding updates, as well as weather and currency information, via smart-watches. Once again, this is aimed to save time and enhance the customer experience of flying with an airline.
  4. Airlines will also be further leveraging automated analytics. At present, this concept is widely used for the automated pricing feature for airline seats. It still remains more of an ad-hoc concept at present, but that is set to soon change. Going forward, automated analytics will become firmly embedded in the software network that is part of the airlines industry.
  5. Technology is making aircraft smarter, and the concept of connected aircraft is looking to be implemented. A connected aircraft helps monitor and determine the health of critical avionic systems.
  6. The passenger journey stage is said to benefit most from IoT technologies – 42% of airlines say it is the top priority and 56% say it is in their top three. A complete automation of the check-in process ensures that passengers simply receive a ready-to-print boarding pass via email.
  7. The airline industry is beginning to view cyber security much more as a business related risk. Hence, there are plans on adopting other initiatives around cyber security over the consecutive few years, such as software development, incident response, and intelligence and analytics.
  8. Airlines are looking to further utilize the following components (among others) as part of its core technology strategy:
    • Enhanced levels of regulatory compliance
    • E-commerce
    • Agile technologies
    • Software as a Service (SaaS)
    • Geographically distributed services

These factors have made testing essential to duty, highly complex and time-consuming, an activity.

Airlines are more inclined to partner with software firms that strengthen their domain expertise and, subsequently, understand the customer needs well. All the above eight reasons, point to testing being the key factor in ensuring the smooth operation of all systems and networks. Independent testing practices that offer an array of testing services are hence, vital for the uninterrupted functioning of the systems. Technology could evolve to be invulnerable, and still a possum may end up chewing the power cable again! The only solution, really, is to ensure that testing practices are rigorously followed!