Ryanair systems upgrade vital, despite teething problems

Ryanair has said a key bookings system upgrade was crucial to help it cope with rapidly growing volumes of ticket sales, despite the upgrade requiring a two-day website closure and causing some problems with bookings.

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Ryanair has said a key bookings system upgrade was crucial to help it cope with rapidly growing volumes of ticket sales, despite the upgrade requiring a two-day website closure and causing some problems with bookings.

The Navitaire New Skies system, based on Microsoft .Net technology, went live in February, and some analysts stated at the time that the closure could be costly because Ryanair makes nearly all its ticket sales online.

But Howard Miller, chief financial officer at Ryanair, said the company did not think it had lost “any business” as a result. “People came back at another time,” he said. The comments echo some travel e-commerce analysts who said the problems would be offset by the fact that most of Ryanair’s rivals operate different routes or have largely different prices.

Miller said the new system offered better capability at handling high booking levels, as Ryanair’s historic bookings database had expanded from 5 million records in 2000 to 60 million this year and was struggling to cope. Ryanair had needed to take action to ensure the system provided reliable room for further growth.

The new system offered “critical” scalability, better presentation online, better booking management for customers including hotels and car hire, and the ability to add extra functionality such as connecting with passenger check in kiosks in the future, he said.

There have been suggestions in the press that Ryanair moved to the new system so it could cope with an Office of Fair Trading ruling, which specified it and other airlines displayed taxes and other charges more clearly on their websites.

Miller said that this was part of the benefit of the switchover, but denied it was the sole reason. The changeover had been a “massive project” that had been two years in planning anyway, he said, adding: “We could have done it [complied with the OFT ruling] on the other system, but it would have been a great rewrite and would have been complex."

Some glitches were normal when making such a change, he stated. “It’s going to happen again as we grow our business.”

“We had to move over 60 million records in two days, then retrain 6,000 staff,” he said. “We had similar teething problems in 1999 with the [Navitaire Open Skies] system.” He declined to comment on the specific system issues at launch, but he said there were “a lot of small issues”.

Ryanair also experienced slower booking in recent weeks in the peak season, which he said were attributable to the large volumes of traffic. “There have been a lot of big volume sales,” he said. “Many volumes are up 20 percent on this time last year.”

The airline recently updated its staff scheduling system, called Netline, which manages the location and work hours of staff including cabin crew and pilots. The system was created by airline Lufthansa.

Other key systems at Ryanair include SAP R/3 in its finance operations, and the Swissair Amos aircraft maintenance management system.

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