How Software Quality Engineering Can Help Airlines Stay SuccessfulSairam Vedam
A robust software quality testing approach is crucial for businesses across all industries. For instance, in the aviation industry, we have airlines upgrading mobile applications in order to better connect with their passengers. Technology is creating revolutionary paths, no matter the business, leading to several interdependencies and immediate results. For this reason alone, it is crucial to implement strong software testing strategies.
Discomforts, Departure Delays, & Sydney’s Software System Failure
The case in point is the computer software issue that triggered massive delays this morning at Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane airports.
The problem with the global system, which allows airlines to check passports, and its subsequent outage, led to long check-in queues for passengers, with some waiting up to an hour. Reports claim that the system went down about 7.30 AM (AEDT) before being restored about 11 AM. While a few airlines were capable of checking-in the passengers by hand, the issue caused delays. Passenger Jonathan Harley told news.com.au that he waited in a queue at Sydney Airport for about one hour with no movement.
Earlier today, a Melbourne spokesperson said check-in for international flights had been affected by an outage of the Advanced Passenger Processing (APP) system. “This system is used globally, so the issue affects many other airports as well as Melbourne,” she said. Another spokesperson for Brisbane Airport said passengers were facing longer check-in times but flights were leaving on time. Later, Melbourne Airport sent out tweets claiming that the APP system was back online and all airlines were able to process check-in.
A Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesperson affirmed that it was conscious of an external system outage with the Society International Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA) system, impacting travellers arriving at and departing from Australia.
Similar Experiences Across the Globe
In a similar light, a few months ago, the airlines industry witnessed Delta Air Lines, a major American airline, cancel and delay nearly half of all its flights. This too was initially broadcasted as a power outage that led to a computer meltdown. Delta’s flight-status updates were also not working, compounding problems for passengers. Many would have remained home that day and avoided the travel to the airport, had news of delay, and/or cancellation, been updated in the flight’s application.
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.
Not too long prior to the Delta Air Lines issue, 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. But why?
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
- The operation of flights
- Maintaining and updating information on digital platforms
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 aforementioned passport issue, 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 to invest in a significant amount for the software testing and software quality engineering of airline systems.
Some may argue that a stoppage of power supply does not qualify as a software quality issue. What can one do, if for example, a computer is turned off due to zero power supply? The answer is to keep the computer running by kicking on the uninterruptible power supply, until the main power returns.
How can one be sure that the UPS will function precisely when required most? By monitoring it with the UPS software, of course; thereby ultimately making the core issue a software-related one.
8 Reasons How Software Quality Engineering Helps Airlines
The following 8 reasons state why there is an increasing necessity for strategic implementation of integrated Software Quality Engineering in the airlines industry.
- The airlines 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Airlines are looking to further utilize the following components (among others) as part of its core technology strategy:
- Enhanced levels of regulatory compliance
- Agile technologies
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Geographically distributed services
- These factors have made software testing essential to duty, highly complex and time-consuming, an activity.
Digital trends thus make it imperative for the airline industry to leverage technology to the maximum. With this digital transformation, the airline industry is now moving to a new era, in terms of operational activities and provision of customer service. According to a survey conducted and analyzed in an SITA report, 57% of airlines expect capital IT spends to increase in 2017. (Source: Airline IT Trends Survey 2016 – SITA)
Airlines are more inclined to partner with independent software testing firms that can help improve the quality of their services and also strengthen their domain expertise. All the above eight reasons, point to software testing being the key factor in ensuring the smooth operation of all systems and networks.
Independent quality software testing practices that offer an array of software 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 quality software testing practices are rigorously followed!
Sairam Vedam, VP & Global Head, Marketing at Cigniti Technologies. An Award Winning Global Marketing Leader, Speaker, Blogger, Start-up Mentor, Technologist, and a CSR Leader.