Aeroflot Russian Airlines today demonstrated significant progress in its technology upgrade project, started in March this year. At a press conference in Moscow the Russian flag carrier launched a pilot version of its new online booking service, reported its plans to introduce electronic paperless ticketing, confirmed it is on schedule with the technical requirements needed for its planned entry to the SkyTeam Alliance in March 2006 and reported the success of the travel agency technology switch in Russia. The airline also revealed plans for the launch of self-service airport “express check-in” kiosks, as well as touch-screen self-booking units in Aeroflot offices that travelers can use to plan flights and make their own bookings.
The Aeroflot technology upgrade involved the successful switch from outdated technology systems to cutting-edge reservation, operational and decision-support products provided by Sabre. The IT overhaul, combined with the airline’s recent product upgrade and re-branding exercise, enables the Russian carrier to compete successfully on international routes and paves the way for it to enter the SkyTeam airline alliance.
Sergey Kiryushin, Aeroflot CIO, said the scale of the project was vast, and one of the biggest travel IT projects attempted in Russia.
“To change our entire technology platform while running a growing and successful business has been a major challenge,” Kiryushin said. “The fact that we have got as far as we have, while simultaneously servicing growing customer inquiries and maintaining service levels has been an outstanding achievement by the Aeroflot and Sabre teams.”
The pilot version of Aeroflot’s Internet booking service (www.aeroflot.ru) goes live today. Aeroflot Bonus passengers in Russia are able to view and book seats on any Aeroflot flight around the world. During the first phase of the project passengers will pay for and collect tickets from Aeroflot offices in Moscow. Online payment and ticket delivery is expected to become available in a few months.
Aeroflot also announced new automated booking units for its ticket office, to help reduce customer waiting times. The touch-screen self-booking units, specially developed for Aeroflot by Sabre Airline Solutions, will allow travelers to plan flights and make their own bookings.
Once agreement is reached with the Sheremetyevo airport authority, Aeroflot plans to introduce self-service airport “express check-in” kiosks. Industry analysts project that within five years 80 percent of all airlines’ check-in transactions worldwide will be via self-service check in.
“That is a huge goal to achieve, but one that is being pursued diligently as airlines seek to improve service and cut costs,” Kiryushin said. He added that Aeroflot expects to have one passenger in every five using the automated check-in facilities by the end of 2006 and that this new technology will help the airline manage growth in passenger volume as well as giving cost savings and customer service benefit.
Electronic, or paperless, ticketing is another area where the technology is being tested at Aeroflot for implementation once allowed by the Russian legislation. Once approval is granted Aeroflot will be positioned to immediately start issuing e-tickets for travel sold through Aeroflot sales offices in Russia.
“Everything we are announcing today is about customer convenience, staffing and cost efficiencies, bringing the airline up to date with best practice in the competitive world of the international aviation industry,” said Eugene Bachurin, Aeroflot commercial director. “We’re rapidly turning Aeroflot into an airline which embraces the best available technology and efficiencies—resulting in a better service for customers and a more streamlined, cost-effective airline for the country. It’s one of the advantages of having chosen to go with Sabre Airline Solutions in the first place—they offered better technology and better support for these innovations than the previous incumbent or any of its competitors.”
“These projects have huge implications for Aeroflot and its role as a major international airline, as well as advancing customer-oriented travel services within Russia,” said Tom Klein, group president of Sabre Airline Solutions and Sabre Travel Network. “The Sabre team recognized the importance of this accomplishment and dedicated itself to making it successful. We are pleased that our new generation solution was ready for Aeroflot to implement in the timeframe it required, rather than depending on promises of future developments. The successes outlined today truly separate us from our competitors in this regard. We congratulate all involved on a great achievement for the industry.”
Klein also confirmed that Aeroflot was now well-positioned to join the SkyTeam Alliance as scheduled in March 2006. “All the technical foundations are now in place,” he said. “Sabre’s Open Systems technology means any software program used by a SkyTeam Alliance member will be able to ‘talk’ with any Aeroflot software program. This has huge benefits in terms of efficiency and compatibility, and is greatly easing the process of integrating Aeroflot into the Alliance.”
These foundations include e-ticketing capability, technology to integrate SkyTeam partner airline Frequent Flyer programs, redemption of Frequent Flyer awards among all partner airlines, the ability for travel agents to view all bookings with partner airlines that contain an Aeroflot flight, and the interactive exchange of reservations data.
“Aeroflot’s objective is to continue making use of the most efficient technologies in the industry,” said Bachurin. “This is why we chose Sabre’s technology package. We believe Sabre provides more flexibility in the areas of air travel reservation and sales and ticketing than any other offering currently available while at the same time ensuring maximum efficiency from both the travel agents and the airline sales offices. In addition, the new technology offers a variety of new functions which will benefit Aeroflot and travel agencies and will help to improve customer service.”
The project involved switching not only Aeroflot’s internal reservations system from the old to the new, but also the reservation system used by nearly 6,000 Aeroflot-affiliated travel agents in more than 3,000 locations in Russia and elsewhere around the world. It attracted attention from aviation and travel technology specialists all over the world and made Sabre the system most widely used by travel agents in Russia. Sabre announced that in July it processed 53.5 percent of all GDS bookings in Russia.
Leading Russian travel agencies and industry bodies have welcomed the move by Aeroflot to update its reservations system.
Igor Gorelov, commercial director of ITC, said he wished the switch to Sabre had been made many years ago.
“It’s like a toothache,” Gorelov said. “Over time you get used to the ache, but after you are finally forced to see the dentist you wonder why you didn’t go a lot earlier”.
Aeroflot expects the new reservation, operational and decision-support products to boost the company’s revenues by US$10-US$15 million in the first year. In future the new system could increase annual revenues by US$20-$30 million.
Part of the cost savings comes from reduced telecommunication charges. Aeroflot’s previous technology provider was primarily a telecommunications provider and charged for access to the airline’s reservation system. With Sabre, travel agents connect to the airline less expensively, using the Internet.
“Aeroflot wanted to leapfrog its competitors by using the most advanced and effective booking technology available to the travel industry,” said Sergey Obryvalin. “We chose Sabre Travel Network for this reason as its products lead the way for both travel providers and travel agencies. The new technology gives us a whole spectrum of advanced functionality that we will use, in turn, to raise our levels of service to both the travel agency community and our traveling customers. By switching to this new, highly effective technology Aeroflot has booked itself into the future.”
In addition to the savings and revenue potential made possible through the reservations and distribution technology, Aeroflot is targeting an increase of up to three percent additional revenue from the integration of Sabre’s revenue management technology. This revenue integrity software will also provide fraud control, providing significant savings from lost revenue.