Air Transport World

One size doesn't fit all: low-cost carriers may depend on IT systems, but they don't want to pay Major airline prices to vendors who don't really know the LCC business.(Information Technology)

Rocky Wiggins, CIO of AirTran Airways, tells the story of a representative of an established information technology company who came to his office with a pitch for a system that could perform a multitude of functions flawlessly. Wiggins agreed that the system was impressive, but pointed out that AirTran was a low-cost carrier and didn't need all the bells and whistles. With or without the options, the price was the same, the representative explained, because it included some of the cost of development.

Wiggins concluded the meeting quickly. "Don't come into my office and show me 20 things your system can do but you can't cost-justify any of them or I'm going to throw you out the door," said Wiggins, a 20-year IT veteran with US Airways before joining AirTran 3-1/2 years ago. He manages an annual IT budget of $25 million.

Although some progress has been made, his story exemplifies the frustration LCCs still feel with an IT industry that refuses to do its homework on their segment of the airline business. ATW found this opinion prevalent.

"They are completely out of touch," complains WestJet Senior VP-Customer Service Don Bell. "They are so infatuated with their systems that run the Major airlines that they don't understand what makes us tick," adds Bell, whose IT budget is roughly 1.5% of the Calgary-based carrier's 2003 revenues of $860 million. Seconds John Thorpe, head of IT for easy-Jet: "Most vendors, especially those used to dealing with traditional airlines, have little idea of how the LCC business works and see high price tags as the norm. …

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