EasyJet, the low-cost airline, has to perform the difficult balancing act of keeping up to date with its competitors’ technology while also keeping its costs down.
The man whose job it is to carry out this feat is EasyJet CIO Trevor Didcock, who has been at the airline since September 2010, having gained experience at CIO level with both Homeserve and the Automobile Association.
Technology can make or break an airline, and mobile is currently the most crucial development area, Didcock told Computing.
“An airline is totally underpinned by technology; there aren’t any areas in the business where there is not any technology. EasyJet sees mobile as being really critical and we’ve developed our first app, which is now in its fifth release,” he said.
Didcock said the airline is looking to exploit the app in as many ways as possible, and has started trialling the use of mobile boarding passes. However, Didcock admitted that EasyJet was not the first to market with the technology.
This speed to market is a key issue for the carrier, as it aims to compete with bigger airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, who have more money to invest in technology and more staff to implement it.
“In terms of our mobile app, we were two or three years behind the market. We underinvested in technology for a while, and now we’re in catch-up mode in the mobile space. However, we don’t see the future in apps – we see the future in a singly connected world and we’re now building our website for mobile, which will go live soon,” said Didcock.
What Didcock’s team lacks in financial resources, it tries to make up for through innovation.
“What we do is build things in a smart way. BA employs about 1,500 IT staff – we have just over 100. So, we keep our costs very low; our IT running costs are less than one per cent of revenue. As we were late to the market we were able to look at the apps available and identify what really matters to the customer, and now we’ve got the fastest app to book flights,” he said.
According to Didcock, two per cent of all EasyJet flights are booked via its mobile application and this equates to more than £1m a week – an impressive performance given that the app has only been live for less than a year.
EasyJet was much faster – first, in fact – to market with its cloud-based departure system, dubbed Halo.
“Halo is used in airports for check-in and boarding and is a ruggedised mobile device. It uses an application that sits in the cloud on Microsoft Azure and is used by ground operations officers to scan barcodes of passengers and board them on the plane. It has also got a chip and pin function so it can take payments at the check-in queue for speedy boarding or at departure for an extra bag payment,” Didcock explained.