Lessons From Airline Industry Downtime

If you were one of the millions of travelers impacted by the technology breakdown of two major airlines a few months ago, you have my sympathies.

But condolences aside, the unexpected and massive shutdown should serve as a warning to us all about the significant risks associated with an aging and often volatile IT infrastructure — that, and the value of being anticipatory with regard to changing IT requirements.

A Coincidence — Or Not?

Not too long ago, a screensaver at an airport departure gate caught my eye. It was something I had not seen for years, a black screen with a floating Windows XP logo.

Getting ready to board a high-tech aircraft that was going to fly at over 40,000 feet and travel more than 5,000 miles, it seemed odd that the airport was still using very old legacy technology. Running an unsupported operating system in an area where security is supposed to be paramount should make us all wonder about other forms of aging technology in the airline industry.

That thought manifested itself in an extraordinary fashion not long thereafter. In July 2016, Southwest Airlines canceled 2,300 flights when a router failed, delaying hundreds of thousands of passengers. A few weeks later, Delta Air Lines grounded 451 flights in a single morning. Even more concerning was the revelation that 300 of its 7,000 data center components had not been configured correctly.

I had to ask myself: Was the legacy technology I saw on the display at the boarding gate a red flag for the outdated IT infrastructure that completely undercut the operations of two major carriers?


#1 Bestselling Author, Global Futurist, Innovation Expert and Keynote Speaker. One of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Innovation.

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