How IT keeps an air carrier flying high

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. 

Topic: CXO

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Great News!

    This guy knows his stuff! Allowing "gurus" and C programmers (with "link" dependencies) to control your IT department is BAD NEWS! Unfortunetly, this is the case in MANY IT orgs. There is NO standardization - only loosely followed "best practices" rule the day.

    The government HAD the right idea (a first!), when it developed Ada and insisted on its use. If "C" gives you too much rope - Ada gives you none. There are NO pointers in Ada ("proving" computer algorithms is impossible if you use pointers and/or array indexes), and it provides just about everything you need in an advanced language ("raise" for exceptions, "modules" for abstraction). The trouble with Ada is it is TOO restrictive for the "fly-by-the-pants" programmers that are used to "C" and misuse of pointers.
    Roger Ramjet