UK charter airlines Britannia Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines UK (TCUK) are embracing web-based flight crew communications, with Britannia hoping to extend its system to wireless local area networks (WLANs) in aircraft cabins.

Last year Britannia issued personal digital assistants (PDA) to its 1,800 cabin crew and laptop computers to its 450 flightcrew in a bid to cut down on pre-flight briefing times and facility costs, which Iain Andrew, Britannia Airways director information technology and change, says saved the airline nearly £500,000 ($825,000).

"Before adopting Open Text's Livelink system, Britannia used more than 600 separate paper forms for personnel administration, and all communications were by phone, fax or mail," he says. The airline has reduced its backroom staff by 300 by putting all the processes on line.

Crew flight packs are now on line, and each crew member is required to download the relevant flight details, changes and safety notices before each flight. "We've eliminated 20min of flight pack preparation time," says Andrew. Britannia says it will save £50,000 a year by not flying physical flight manuals around. They are now stored in pilots' laptops, which were introduced in April.

The airline believes it is the world's first to use PDAs as point-of-sale devices in the cabin, and it also uses them to hold passenger-specific information. Andrew says the airline wants to install WLANs in its cabins so sales data can be updated in real time.

Meanwhile, TCUK is to supply its pilots with Cardiff, UK-based Infovisual's secure low-cost web access, providing up-to-date technical information, airline procedures and a pilot chatroom.

Source: Flight International