BA Web site revamp nears completion

British Airways is finalising the Australian leg of a worldwide Web site upgrade designed to save AU$230 million per year and prompt every user to visit the site at least once before flying. The final tranche of upgrades to the airline's Web site, due for completion by mid-January, includes scope for customers to change existing bookings online.

British Airways is finalising the Australian leg of a worldwide Web site upgrade designed to save AU$230 million per year and prompt every user to visit the site at least once before flying.

The final tranche of upgrades to the airline's Web site, due for completion by mid-January, includes scope for customers to change existing bookings online. Customers can presently choose meals and seats, view an e-mail itinerary but cannot change their bookings.

The airline has this year revamped customers' view of the site to allow them to see one-screen pricing and availability for an entire month rather than just specific days. Customers can book 355 days in advance for each cabin in each flight. To accommodate the volume of data, British Airways has installed small local copies of the database on several servers to expedite the querying process.

Ninety-three percent of passengers in Australia are using e-tickets -- but only 19 percent are logging on to ba.com before travelling. The changes would, according to the airline, push the log-on figure closer to the "aspirational" target of 100 percent.

British Airways recently announced passengers flying with the carrier from Australia can print off their boarding passes online before heading to the airport.

Mark Pavlides, BA's general manager distribution and IT manager Asia Pacific, told ZDNet Australia the new facility allowed customers to drop their bags at a dedicated counter at Sydney and Melbourne Airports and head straight to the immigration hall rather than brave often long queues to check in.

Pavlides said the self-printed boarding passes were presently being manually processed at the airport gate as passengers boarded their flight. However, by the end of March next year, readers would be in place at the gates that would allow staff to scan bar-codes on the passes.

He said in the first two weeks since the facility for Australian passengers had been added to the Web site, 400 people had used it to print off their passes. The service has been available to passengers in the United Kingdom and Europe "for a while," Pavlides said.

Pavlides said the carrier had already saved GBP100 million (AU$230 million) since kicking off the global changes in 2004 and had seen Web site usage in Australia during October grow 420 percent compared to October 2004. In the Asia-Pacific, the figure is slightly higher at 530 percent.

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