Delta Airlines and IT

Baseline Magazine writes about how Delta intends to tackle the low-priced competition that it faces, with technology being a cornerstone of its strategy.

Over the past five years, Delta spent $1.5 billion on a computer and communications infrastructure, called the Delta Nervous System, that cuts inefficiencies out of virtually every area of its operation – an investment that Delta chief information officer Curtis Robb notes Delta could not afford to make today. A study by Baseline finds Delta is realizing about $700 million this year in savings and is generating $150 million in new revenue from such things as maintenance, which previously hadn’t been a profit center.

The Delta Nervous System linked some 30 to 40 customer and flight databases that track everything from reservations and ticketing, to check-in and baggage handling, to flight and crew operations. Delta in February flew 2,100 flights, carried almost 300,000 passengers, used 7.3 million gallons of fuel, served 87,000 cans of soda, and, to keep that soda cold, boarded 219,000 pounds of ice. Every day.

The Nervous System works like a radio network. Individual stations broadcast changes – a new ticket reservation, a flight delay, a gate change – as they occur. Messaging software supplied by Tibco Software picks up the broadcast and carries it to any station (a local computing system) that is programmed to receive it.

A ticket reservation, for instance, will be broadcast and recorded in Delta’s financial systems, its frequent-flier database, and its boarding and flight records, among other places. This way, gate agents, food suppliers, even Delta’s chief financial officer know immediately what’s going on with any particular Delta flight.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.