AirMiles pushes ahead with XML after integrating back-office IT

The AirMiles Travel Company is pushing forward with a major refresh of its IT after a complete revamp of its web operation...

The AirMiles Travel Company is pushing forward with a major refresh of its IT after a complete revamp of its web operation dramatically boosted customer numbers and increased efficiency.

The loyalty scheme operator has seen the percentage of customers using its online channel increase from 10% to more than 30%, since overhauling its website using integration tools from Computer Associates and Web-logic Java development software.

It is now pushing ahead with the IT revamp, using open standards for development and XML for communication with suppliers. The company is also upgrading its network and storage technology.

In the web overhaul, which began last June, the AirMiles Travel Company's website became tightly integrated with its Oracle 9i-based back-office systems using CA's AdvantageGen software development tools.

The software integrated the company's banking database - which manages customer balances - with all other internal systems.

This has allowed corporate data to be exchanged easily and ensure customer airmile updates are applied quickly, said Peter Simpson, technology architect at the AirMiles Travel Company.

"The technology has bridged the gap for us, and given us full account visibility," he said.

The company also changed its website architecture by using J2EE software from Weblogic to boost booking efficiency.

"We have moved from ordering via e-mail to immediate real-time booking," Simpson said. "We went for open standards [over Microsoft .net] to give us the option to move to other environments, such as IBM Websphere, although we are happy with Weblogic."

To cope with the growing demand, the company has doubled the capacity on its web mail servers and has implemented load-balancing technology from supplier S5 to ensure its networks are not affected.

It is also in the process of rolling out a storage area network, based on discs from Hitachi and switches from Brocade, to ensure data integrity.

The company, which offers services from 25 airlines, 20,000 hotels and holidays from the UK's top 50 tour operators, has placed XML at the centre of its IT strategy.

"We are extending the number of suppliers we will be talking to in the UK. At the moment we are using open tools we created ourselves, but we want to end up with an XML standard," Simpson said.

The company is backing the Open Travel Alliance, which is driving the use of XML across the travel industry. "At the moment, it is not simple to use XML because there is a lot of customisation involved," Simpson said. "Standards will help ease that."

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