CIO interview: How EasyJet supports mobility and big data on a small budget

By Danny Palmer
26 Jul 2013 View Comments
EasyJet CIO Trevor Didcock

"We've done a lot of work around mobile, mobile is a constant development for us," Trevor Didcock, EasyJet CIO told Computing at the recent SITA Airline IT conference in Brussels.

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"We now transact about four per cent of our business through mobile, so it's growing fast. We've only had mobile apps for about 18 months. We're quite late to the market, but it gave us the opportunity to cherry-pick capabilities from other airline apps, so we think we've got the best airline app in the market," he said,

He added that the company has recently introduced a flight tracker, which enables travellers to check departure and arrival times via smartphone, and a new mobile departure control application.

"We have ruggedised devices that we use to enable us to board people. So you stand in line as you're waiting for the plane, and we can scan boarding passes.

"That's Wi-Fi based. It also gives us the opportunity to take payments, for oversized bags or additional bags, and we can upsell seats," he said. 

EasyJet was one of the first airlines to embrace online check-in, with almost all passengers now checking in via the web, ahead of their arrival at the airport.

"We've got to the stage now where we're at 95 per cent online check-in, so we can use mobile devices to queue-bust, effectively, so very few people have to come to us to check-in at the airport," said Didcock.

"We still have a lot of people delivering bags and so we're thinking through rather than have check-in desks, have people using these mobile devices to upsell seats and to take bag payments," he continued.

Nonetheless, despite embracing mobility, the traditional web still plays a key part in passenger relations, with Didcock explaining how EasyJet uses its blog to keep customers informed in the event of any issues.

"There aren't too many uses of blogs in business that are really successful, but this works really well. Our operation control centre uses our blog to pass information out to let travellers know exactly what's happening.

"If there's an engineering issue, has the part been received, when is it going to arrive, are we going to fix the aircraft or send you a different one?" he continued.

"It's to give you enough information so you can make decisions as to whether you wait in the airport, whether you go elsewhere, whether you get a meal. It's really starting to build that ongoing communication with the passenger."

As with many businesses, EasyJet finds that employees, ranging from pilots to backroom staff, want to use mobiles at work, too, and the airline is happy to facilitate this.

"We provide just phones to pilots, and BlackBerrys internally to management and admin staff," said Didcock, who added that pilots like to use their own personal Apple iPads, prompting EasyJet to develop applications enabling them to use their tablets as a work tool.

"Most of our pilots have iPads, so we have developed apps for them for things like  charting, for example."

The success of iPads in the cockpit means EasyJet is now looking at officially adopting them for work use, along with other brands of tablet.

"We're trialling iPads, we're trialling Panasonic Toughbooks and I'm sure we'll be rolling them out in the not too distant future," said Didcock.

Despite an apparent enthusiasm for Apple among staff, EasyJet's bring your own device (BYOD) policy isn't based around the iPhone, but rather BlackBerry. However, that's not the latest BlackBerry smartphones running on BB10, but the more traditional BlackBerry devices.

"BlackBerrys are a personal productivity tool. We chose BlackBerry when the other devices didn't have as strong security," Didcock said.

"Now I guess we could standardise and move away from BlackBerry, but people like BlackBerrys. A lot of people who come into EasyJet from other industries have been used to operating on BlackBerry. So as a personal productivity device BlackBerry has been fine."

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