The airline industry is among the most nuanced and challenging areas to manage. There are numerous safety regulations that must be met, important data on ticketing and flight status to transmit to passengers, and the management of numerous pieces of large machinery. Along with managing multiple vendors, there are huge opportunities for Gray Work – or the slow, manual work we do just to “get by” – to crop up and ground operations.
International air service provider Alaska Airlines felt these challenges and more, requiring a new approach towards flight tracking and vendor management to streamline operations. Partnering with Quickbase, Alaska Airlines transformed their approach to flight tracking, cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs, and improved reporting time by over 80%.
Airline Challenges Today
The airline industry is multi-faceted and operates on an extremely demanding business model. Per the FAA, nearly 3 million passengers travel in and out of the United States every single day. The environment in which airline employees operate is difficult, and oftentimes IT resources to support them are minimal. Additionally, financial pressures come from all angles – economic climate, travel demand, fuel prices, vendor management, etc.
Airlines often deploy point solutions to address these challenges, which help in the short term, but suffer in the long term. When businesses have a network of point solutions, costs can quickly spiral out of control and data becomes fragmented across the various tools.
In a demanding market like the airline industry, data needs to be available at a moment’s notice, not hunted and tracked down – recent data from Quickbase found that 70% of workers in an enterprise spend 20 hours a week looking for the information they need to make business decisions.
Airlines need platforms that act as single sources of truth for data, and can be customized to meet individual needs. With the complexity of the needs of consumer air travel, airlines need to be able to capture and connect critical data, create applications and solutions on the fly, and manage vendors through a single view.
Through our Dynamic Workplace Management platform, business users can tap no-code technology spin up applications. This empowers those closest to the issues to be the ones who can create the solution, regardless of technical ability – and that’s just how Alaska Airline overcame their challenges.
Alaska Airlines’ Dynamic Approach
Operating a fleet of over 200 aircraft, Alaska Airlines provides international service for passengers on a daily basis. This requires complex and critical heavy maintenance check lines of work, all spread across several vendors, each generating a flow of data.
Prior to using Quickbase, data living in disparate areas caused unnecessary complexities for Alaska Airlines. The siloing of financial and performance data made it difficult to obtain a full view of their heavy maintenance operations. Additionally, data collection tools were not consistent with technology, resulting in Gray Work cropping up. This meant critical data lived in excel documents and handwritten notes, making it difficult to analyze for key reporting. Mitch Allen, Manager of Vendor Maintenance at Alaska Airlines says the data fragmentation created many areas of inconsistency.
“Each of our locations, like airport gates, began taking on personalities of their own, making data collection extremely difficult,” Allen says. “Teams tracking flight status would log data their own way, and when the next team would take over, they would log it differently. I knew it would be a long day when I had to pull all of that data together and make sense of it.”
To combat these issues, Alaska Airlines began working with Quickbase on new systems and tools to improve their data collection functionality. The team got to work by creating a system that captured data from all of the locations the airline operates from. Our tools enabled Alaska Airlines to create an app for employees to flight data in real-time, giving a clearer picture of things like flight status and probability of landing on time.
To help keep track of vendors and their contract details, Alaska Airlines worked with us to create an application to help manage all aspects of the vendor acquisition process.
Overcoming these challenges reaped huge benefits for Alaska Airlines, resulting in smoother service for customers and a streamlined vendor management process.
With the consolidation of information into a single view, Alaska Airlines overcame the clutches of data fragmentation, keeping customers better abreast of their flights. Flight status is now shared just a few minutes after touchdown or take-off – an improvement of over 90% from their previous process, which took upwards of 30 minutes to complete.
In terms of vendor management, the constant flow of real-time data enabled Allen and his team to clearly see where vendor spend is most effective, and how financial resources can be better allocated.
The data connectivity of flight statuses enabled Alaska Airlines to then improve their KPI and reporting processes, another enormously time-consuming task. Having to collate data from a range of information silos could take weeks for Allen and other managers at the airline to pull together into a presentable report. Allen and his team used Quickbase to develop reports displayed on their internal data dashboards, pulling in real-time information from all vendors.
Through centralizing the data, Alaska Airlines can now generate accurate reports for their stakeholders in around 15 minutes – a process that could take weeks previously. IT governance within Quickbase’s platform ensures reports and financial data are correct and up-to-date.
Alaska Airlines reaped huge benefits.
After deploying Quickbase’s Dynamic Workplace Management platform, Alaska Airlines saw an $800,000 cost-saving in less than a year. Time spent on data and reporting requests reduced by 80%, and saw huge increases in collaboration and data-sharing across disconnected teams. These now-streamlined processes provide superior accuracy for future budgeting needs as the airline continues to expand.
Improving the processes in a world as highly complex as the airline industry is an enormous challenge that requires visibility. Data anomalies can present an unclear view of how the business is operating and lead to budgeting issues when it comes to vendor management. Quickbase’s approach can help any airline connect, control, and see every element of their operations, ensuring the smoothest experience for passengers and employees alike.