AWS for Industries

Datalex and AWS are Modernizing Airline Retailing

This post is authored by Ryan Estes, VP of Technology at Datalex

Technology advancements have always been at the forefront of expansion and innovation in air travel. This is just as true for planes and as it is for the airline retailing experience. After recently celebrating 100 years of international travel, it is hard to imagine a time where flying whenever and wherever would not be possible, but here we are. All of those involved in the travel supply chain are planning how to operate in the current environment and recover when business and leisure travel return to more traditional patterns. In good times and challenging times, the airline industry has turned to partners like Datalex to help optimise their retailing. And, to help provide the best products and services possible to the airlines we serve, Datalex has chosen to build on AWS.

Operating in today’s environment

For more than thirty years, Datalex has withstood many extraordinary travel-impacting events. Datalex has helped customers navigate massive winter storms, hurricanes, and volcanic ash clouds. Many airlines are focused on restructuring during this period. But a number are also taking the time to strategically reprioritize key projects and work more closely with technology partners. Airlines are considering how to deliver outstanding digital experiences to their customers; present the best offers dynamically, and how to control all distribution channels—especially the direct channel. The ability to scale selectively as airline travel resumes is key. At Datalex, this mirrors our own strategic planning.

So how will airlines adapt to the current environment and prepare for the next wave of domestic and international travel? One thing that is certain is that technology and data will be at the heart. Artificial intelligence (AI), assistive technology, robotics, and cloud computing are technology trends that will shape the future of the travel industry and of air travel in particular, but these technologies just scratch the surface. It’s impossible to fully keep up on the latest innovations and technology and how they are being employed for success. As a leader in the industry, paving that way demands rethinking and redefining the interactions between people and technology as well as working with the best partners to ensure success. This will best position companies not only for the recovery — but long after.

Datalex and AWS

In order to increase our agility, we knew we needed to work with the most innovative technology. This is what took us to AWS. Cloud computing is no longer seen only as a cost-cutting luxury, where businesses can take advantage of the pay-per-use model and avoid capital expenditures on IT infrastructure. The cloud will also be critical to the success of airline digital transformation programs and drive innovation to meet the ever-evolving expectations of travelers. Together, Datalex and AWS have taken the initiative to transform the way in which managed services are offered. We are taking a phased approach (transition, optimise and adopt) to bring the most value to travel providers.

I mentioned previously the break-neck pace of technological change and the challenge of keeping up with its latest developments. Working with AWS allows us access to the most advanced cloud platform and over 75 fully-managed services. Rather than devoting resources to build everything ourselves, we are able to leverage off-the-shelf-solutions they have created in areas like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Database, compute, security and more. It also helps that AWS is the leader in the travel and hospitality sector, working with Airbnb, Best Western, EasyJet, Expedia and Ryanair just to name a few. This means they have aggregated industry-specific learning they can pass down and implement — which we in turn, pass down to our customers.

Engaging with massive numbers of travelers on an individual basis is a core capability of the Datalex Digital Commerce Platform. The Platform allows airlines to increase the range and scale of products and services they can offer to passengers across an increasingly digital marketplace. Today the Datalex Digital Commerce Platform, with more than 800 offer- and order-management retailing capabilities, is used every hour of the day at scale by airlines globally. Our platform also uses detailed knowledge of individual customer shopping behavior to ensure that the right offers are presented to the traveler during their interactions with airlines. With its scalability and performance, AWS enhances Datalex’s ability to deal with vast numbers of customers on an individual basis as a market-of-one. AWS ensures that each individual customer is offered the products most relevant to their needs.

Another benefit we experienced was our ability to improve time-to-market while offering higher availability and fail over support. AWS Managed Services offer better support for disaster recovery and business continuity than self-managing open source tools. Technologies like AWS CloudFormation provide greater control and faster deployments to the cloud. These technologies allow Datalex to focus on implementing innovative and revenue enhancing capabilities in the Digital Commerce Platform. All of this allows us to focus on the specific needs of our airline customers rather than tinkering with undifferentiated IT.

Airlines reaping the benefits of partnership

Traditionally the margin on flights booked through an airline’s direct channels like website, mobile, and call center are the most profitable. However, airlines often rely on a network of partners to distribute a portion of their products to travel shoppers, ensuring all seats are sold and yield is maximized. Removing barriers and simplifying integration for these distribution partners is key to successfully implementing these programs. For example, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) enhanced their ability to better meet the needs of their distribution partners by implementing Datalex NDC web services for order and offer management. AWS provides partner developers a secure and reliable infrastructure to build, deploy, and manage their integrations to SAS via Datalex NDC.

Many airlines use special fare promotions as part of their marketing strategy. Philippines Airlines (PAL) offers special fare promotions via the Datalex Digital Commerce Platform. These promotions are highly marketed by PAL and organically by their customers on social media. More often than not, one of these promotions exponentially increases PAL’s website traffic and the demand on hosting resources. The scaling capabilities and elasticity of AWS will enable Datalex to automatically increase hosting resources in real time to meet spikes in traveler demand during one of these promotions, and automatically scale down as demand tapers off.

Datalex Digital Commerce Platform APIs provide key airline partners the ability to build real-time integrations to the airline offer-and-order management systems and for the airline to develop their own user interfaces for web, call center, mobile and kiosk points of sale. Datalex uses Amazon API Gateway Usage Plans to specify who can access Datalex REST and NDC offer-and-order web service APIs. The service also enables Datalex to manage how much and how fast subscribers can use them. These features are particularly important to OTAs, metasearch engines and fare insight partners.

Datalex has a long-standing relationship with AWS. The benefits outlined in this post just scratch the surface — and we’re just getting started. In these unprecedented times, many airlines are turning to Datalex to optimise their retail offering – and they should have added confidence knowing our 30+ years of experience is backed up by the innovation of AWS.  We are aligned in our focus; to resolve the most pressing issues now and in parallel, build for the long-term needs of the airline industry. With AWS as the foundational strategic enabler, Datalex can accelerate its digital strategy and deliver better value to our customers. We look forward to what the future holds so catch the tailwind and dream big!

Ryan Estes is the VP of Technology at Datalex. He has previously held advisory, senior management and board roles in IT start-ups across Europe and the US. He brings with him over 18 years of experience in the software and technology field, including expertise in delivering large, complex and distributed ecommerce products and systems.

Florian Tinnus

Florian Tinnus

Florian Tinnus brings 20+ years of experience in the travel and hospitality industry with leading commercial roles for IT solutions and strategic partner management at Fortune 500 companies and technology players. Based in Boston, MA, he is responsible to lead the AWS Partner Ecosystem for Travel & Hospitality globally. Florian holds a degree in business economics and is a certified airline commercial manager. He lived and worked in Germany, France and the United States with a passion for all things travel and technology.