Winner - British Airways

Award sponsor - Amadeus

Information technology has rapidly emerged as a crucial and integral element in transforming the airline business. For British Airways, the philosophy is neatly summed up in the now familiar mantra from its chief information officer Paul Coby, that "there are no IT projects, only business projects".

From the outset, IT was identified as a fundamental part of BA's strategic rethink about the future size and shape of the company, launched soon after the 11 September attacks. And it has become a cornerstone in the airline's effort to take cost and complexity out of the business, while stemming the loss of short-haul customers to aggressive low-cost competitors.

The core of the IT achievement - coined "the big idea" internally at BA - was to create a new simplified fares structure, mirroring that of the low-cost sector, which was capable of competing in the battle for online sales. Key to the project is the creation of a new Web tool based on calendar selling, which allows customers to view prices across 28 days as they choose outward and return flights. More than half of direct flights out of the UK to Europe are now handled online, but that has been only the start.

BA is now in the midst of its second major phase of change, what it calls customer-enabled British Airways (ceBA). Coby describes how his team "stormed the podium" at an internal departmental meeting to present the ceBA idea.

Online selling had worked, but it was only the start. "Now we had a turbo-charged website, there was a realisation that a step-change was possible, one that could get us back on terms with the low-cost carriers in terms of selling," says Coby. "The question was how to capture this radical, revolutionary fervour to change the business substantially."

Coby adds that the vision behind ceBA is straightforward: "Dealing with BA will be so easy that our customers can choose to serve themselves."

Customers are not only being encouraged to book online, but also to manage their whole travel experience from planning through to check-in and frequent flyer accounts. The latest is a trial for home check-in, with boarding passes printed by PC. Annual savings of some £100 million are expected from ceBA within a couple of years, and in the first year of the programme it has already generated strong results.

The use of e-tickets now stands at around 60% across the network on the way toward a 100% target. Further goals are to deploy automated check-in kiosks with the aim of achieving 50% self-service check-in by 2005.

"It is fundamental to British Airways' fightback," says Coby. "We are providing better customer service as self-service at a lower cost and a better, simpler working environment for our employees."



Source: Flight Daily News