Air Transport World

A timely turnaround: United Airlines uses new IT systems to raise ontime performance.(Information Technology)

Of the multitude of changes that have occurred at United Airlines since it began its long descent into bankruptcy following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, none is as surprising as its transformation from a perpetual cellar-dweller into a high-flier on the US Dept. of Transportation's ontime performance scorecard. For the 12 months ended in November, United recorded the second-best ontime performance of 18 reporting carriers, 83.9%, according to DOT data. With the airline poised to emerge from bankruptcy later this year into a recovering industry, this may translate into competitive advantage in the same way that Continental Airlines benefited from its own operational turnaround in the mid-1990s.

Much of United's improvement is attributable to new software tools that have permitted it to incorporate real-time event planning, according to people at the airline. Among the most important was the acquisition of TimesTen's Real Time Event Processing System. United has deployed the solution as the Operations Data Store for day-of-operations information. "This has been a significant contribution to our ontime performance," says Director-Applications Development John Byrne. "Because it alerts and forecasts shortages during irregular ops, we're able to respond and recover much faster."

United is the first airline to license the system, according to TimesTen CEO Jim Groff, who notes that the application, which has been sold to around 200 customers, is not a package solution but foundation software.

Byrne says UA began working with TimesTen in early 2001 when his predecessor, Nirup Krishnamurthy, now the airline's CIO, approached the Mountain View, Calif.-based company about developing infrastructure software for the ODS, a sort of operational backbone analagous to the Delta Nervous System. …

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