Inside the World of Aviation IT

Information technology (IT) continues to bring changes to the field of aviation, and it now plays a critical role in improving and advancing the business. Every airline tries to introduce new and better tools to optimise its day-to-day operations and facilitate the purchasing of tickets and services.

 

Information technology (IT) continues to bring changes to the field of aviation, and it now plays a critical role in improving and advancing the business. Every airline tries to introduce new and better tools to optimise its day-to-day operations and facilitate the purchasing of tickets and services. What are airBaltic’s current IT projects?

We recently updated our project list and right now it stands at almost 200, both small projects (such as ensuring that an email is immediately sent to the passenger if there’s a change in aircraft type for a particular flight) and large ones, for example, changing the ticket revenue accounting system and implementing a new system for efficiently and automatically planning the work schedules of our crews so that they have enough time to rest between shifts and also so that shifts are divided up equally. We’re also doing our own in-house development in order to optimise a number of processes, adapting our infrastructure (including changes in various systems) to European Union regulations that will come into force over the coming year, and diligently preparing for big changes associated with the airBaltic website.

 

Why do you do in-house development if a market with ready solutions already exists? What are some of the in-house products the company is most proud of?

Aviation IT is much more complex than IT in all other industries, because it covers so many different areas: technicians, accounting, marketing, revenue management, operations, crew, safety, etc. Sometimes it’s more efficient to develop a solution ourselves if there’s nothing on the market that meets our requirements or the product available on the market is too expensive. This saves the company money and also challenges us to work harder and become better. One recent thing we’re particularly proud of is the application developed for the Operations Control Centre, which involves data integration from various data sources and facilitates the decision-making process for our employees in difficult situations. We’re also proud of the robotic tool, named “Lutausis”, that we developed. It processes passenger reservations 24/7 and adds any necessary remarks to them – such as a passenger’s selected meals, choice of seat, or extra baggage – and automatically sends this information to the respective service providers. This improvement makes things easier for our Call Centre employees as well as speeds up and optimises the work. We’re also working on improving ACARS (aircraft communications addressing and reporting system), communications, and expanding our DWH (data warehouse) by integrating data on sold ancillaries. These are just a few examples of the work we do every day. The company has no lack of ideas about optimising work so that the passenger’s experience on our flights is even more comfortable. The type of projects we do and the areas they address are very varied.

 

What changes will take place on the airBaltic website?

We want to improve passengers’ experiences on our website and make it more attractive for planning their next flights. We plan to introduce self-service options and give passengers the opportunity to take care of many things associated with their flights on their own,which will in turn reduce manual processes. For example, they won’t have to call the Call Centre to make changes in their flights. Our goal is to make the experience of purchasing tickets and services much quicker, more comfortable, more understandable, and more friendly, starting from the chatbot all the way to letting passengers make changes to their tickets directly through the website. But work has only just begun on these changes, and we’ve still got a long and challenging road ahead of us.

 

In addition to meeting global standards and doing everyday updates, creating a whole new website seems like an extremely big project that demands lots and lots of human resources.

In all, we’re about 40 employees in the IT department, and we’re divided into four sections: user support, systems administrators, developers, and business technology. Seeing as we’re growing and developing quite rapidly at the moment, we’re actively looking for addition people – pleasant, professional colleagues. Right now we need programmers in Java, UI, Scala, and DWH. We’re also looking for good, experienced testers.

 

How has the increase in workload influenced internal processes in the IT department?

Lots of big changes are happening here right now, because we’re not only changing the systems, but we’re also changing the ‘working culture’ – we’re becoming more agile. We’re also changing the way we work with each other; all sides involved in a project try to be a single part of the team, and this team always concentrates on the business. IT is no longer strictly separated from the business end of things, because business is naturally becoming more IT-oriented and technical.

 

What role do you think IT plays in modern aviation, and what does constant technological development demand of an IT department?

We’re always ready to support the company by helping to generate and develop ideas. And we also use our whole team’s knowledge in the field of IT in order to help create something new and innovative. We often have tools or data at our disposal that other departments do not see, so we’re always happy to lend a hand however we can. In order to help the company grow, we need to know and manage these things very well. I think that’s a special characteristic of aviation IT – in order to find the right solution, we need to know what’s going on in e-commerce, marketing, the Call Centre, the Operations Control Centre, and so on. That’s what makes this job so interesting, because it isn’t just limited to IT. We need to know the whole field of aviation and its specific features. We also need to constantly follow the latest trends and be trendsetters ourselves.

How did you begin working at airBaltic?

I have an education in economics. Before I joined airBaltic, I worked at the Bank of Latvia as a financial statistician. Even though the work environment there was good, I felt that it wasn’t the right place for me. So I decided to challenge myself, and I applied for a job at airBaltic as a systems analyst in the IT department. I’ve been here now for seven years, and, thanks to the opportunities provided by the company, I’ve been able to grow and advance in my career. I now lead the Business Technology division, which consists of IT project leaders, systems and data analysts, and distribution systems specialists. I learned to not be afraid of accepting challenges in order to arrive at a place where you feel fulfilled and gratified about your work.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like athletic activities, and I take part in the forest trail runs organised by Stirnu buks. Our IT team is actually very athletic – each of us has their own hobbies and interests, some are more serious about them, others less so. Like almost everybody who works in aviation, I take advantage of the travelling privileges. We can travel whenever and wherever we want to together with family or friends, and I do so as often as I can. Right now my favourite destination is Croatia, which has a very beautiful natural environment, great cuisine, and fantastic people. BO