Its CEO told his staff that it was akin to giving someone a heart and lung transplant while they are in the middle of a marathon -- without stopping. And that pretty much was what it was like for Jetstar last weekend as the low cost airline embarked on its largest IT overhaul since it first took flight in 2004.
“You couldn’t book, you couldn’t change any bookings, you couldn’t check in somebody at the airport -- you couldn’t do anything that an airline would normally use a computer system to do. We were completely without IT support for 23 hours,” said Jamie Perry, GM of distribution and commercial systems at Jetstar.
Early last week Jetstar informed its customers that it was closing its Web site and call centre on Friday at 5pm AEDT, with the view to reopening at 4am AEDT on Monday. The company determined that was the necessary time required to cut over from its Navitaire Open Skies reservation and distribution system, which the carrier launched with in 2004, to Navitaire’s New Skies 3.0.
Perry admitted the migration was a mammoth undertaking.
“Once you make the decision to shut the system off. You are in the lap of the gods somewhat until it comes back up again,” he said.
“Obviously if anything had happened during that time if there had been even worse weather than we had experienced [extreme heat in South Eastern Australia] and we had to start diverting aircraft all over the place, or if we had a problem with one of our aircraft and it hadn’t been able to take off on time, we would have been completely without systems to try to manage that experience. We are so complicated in the way we operate – all airlines are - that would have been very challenging.”
But the upgrade went without a hitch.
The biggest task for the IT department was getting all of the data out of the old system and into the new.
Because Jetstar has had many millions of passengers since it started operations, and it still has all of the booking information in its reservation systems, that information needed to be copied over.
“Now, for the first person who ever bought a seat with us in 2004, their booking hasn’t changed for some time, so that is easy. But many people change bookings or purchase additional pieces that go with their bookings. So the data that relates to those bookings is constantly changing. So at the end of January we took a bulk copy of everything that was in the underlying database and loaded it in to our New Skies database and for every day since then we have been taking a copy of the new and changed bookings on that day and loading it in [to New Skies] so we gradually try and catch up to the production environment.”
Then on Friday Jetstar’s IT department took the reservation system down at 9.30pm. The first task was to copy all the new and changed bookings from Friday into the new system so that it had all the up to date information there. That process too a number of hours.
“We had 55,000 bookings that were new or changed on Friday and it took the best part of nine hours to copy those over to into the new environment and only then do you have a complete database that you can start to work with,” Perry said.
Once that process was completed the company started to bring the system up “we spent four hours in the office on Saturday afternoon -- all of us together running through a final set of test cases to make sure everything was looking as it should and working as it should, working through a couple of configuration issues and then just before 7pm on Saturday evening -- way ahead of where we thought we were going to be".
"We were in a position to make a ‘go’ decision and the steering committee convened in the head office and made the call to bring the system back up early. So we turned it all on at 7pm and we were pretty much fully operational by 7.30.”