Paul Coby, chief information officer of British Airways, is confident that the opening of Heathrow Terminal 5 will signify the coming of age of BA and the completion of its transformation from a company that has been accused in the past of playing catch-up with more tech-savvy airlines.
Coby has been credited with turning around much of BA's business by ensuring the airline took advantage of technology, and his vision of a streamlined airline running on a high degree of automation will be closer to fruition when the new terminal opens in March 2008.
He said the new site, with state-of-the-art technology, will allow BA to begin its tenancy using "completely new processes".
Talking about the T5 layout, Coby said: "We've got a target of four out of every five passengers [who] will either check-in online or use a self-service kiosk and there's going to be a bank of 90 of them when you come in, with fast bag drops immediately behind them."
All of this should speed human traffic and improve the experience of flying for the increasing number of passengers passing through the world's busiest international airport.
Coby said the systems which will underpin operations at T5 are evidence of his IT group working closely with the business to ensure physical and digital requirements are met and the solutions are complementary.
He said: "This is a great example of actually focusing on what the business needs, then defining systems and then defining the infrastructure to support the systems for Terminal 5. So I'm really proud of the way we've been fundamental to that but it's a heck of a challenge when it opens in March 2008."
Coby said BA has come a long way from the day he realised the Internet was going to be the battlefield for a war with the no-frills airlines, such as easyJet which was transacting predominantly online from early on.
He said: "What we did with BA.com originally was to take the no-frills carriers head-on, draw a line in the sand and fight back. And that's what we've done."
Now Coby is looking to build on that success and ensure the Internet makes all customer transactions seamless. "Every interaction between our customers and British Airways should be so easy you'd want to serve yourself online. We've simplified our fares, we enabled you to upgrade, we enabled you to book a seat and one of the things that's really going great guns at the moment is print your own boarding pass at home and do online check-in and people absolutely love that," he said.
Watch the full interview to hear Coby's views on customer service, Web 2.0 and no-frills airlines.