How IT keeps an air carrier flying high

Summary:As the only U.S. carrier to be profitable every year since 1972, Southwest Airlines is running a tight ship.

As the only U.S. carrier to be profitable every year since 1972, Southwest Airlines is running a tight ship. In an interview with Baseline magazine, CEO Gary Kelly talks frankly about how he keeps his airline flying above the competition when low-cost is the mantra of all carriers. Technology plays a central role: "If we're going to continue to press for productivity improvements, technology plays a critical role in that. You need to have a CIO who is a businessperson and has a say in business process change. And I definitely wanted the rest of our team to know that our CIO was going to be one of most senior executives," Kelly told Baseline.

Standardization is another key idea. The airline's entire fleet consists of Boeing 737s, a strategy they're also trying to emulate with technology: "We have a way of constructing the software that all our developers use. We have a single data architecture. We have a standard testing approaches, where we will rarely allow shortcuts. It's not quite as crisp as the airplane approach, because we have three decades of other stuff that we're still supporting, but we've certainly become a lot more disciplined in our choice of technologies." Kelly said. And his expectations of technology are pretty high; they want to be able to just "flip the switch" for assigned seating, if and when they are ready to make that choice. 

Topics: CXO


Christopher Jablonski is a freelance technology writer. Previously, he held research analyst positions in the IT industry and was the manager of marketing editorial at CBS Interactive. He's been contributing to ZDNet since 2003. Christopher received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at U... Full Bio

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