American Airlines looks to the IBM Cloud to end travel hell

American Airlines is looking to IBM to help put an end to terrible airport experiences.

The airline is starting to move its online services to IBM’s cloud network, beginning with its website, apps and airport kiosks, as well as a handful of internal processes. American announced in November that it had chosen IBM’s Cloud over competitors Amazon and Microsoft, but it’s taken since then to to begin its transition.

“American is moving away from talking about moving to the cloud to actually moving to the cloud,” said Daniel Henry, American’s VP of customer technology and enterprise architecture. “It seems simple but that’s a big step for companies of our size.”

The move to IBM Cloud won’t do much when it comes to legroom on American’s planes. But customers will likely notice other changes, particularly when it comes to booking flights and getting access to new features online or through their phones.

The cloud will enable American Airlines to instantly update flight schedules across applications, which means that customers facing cancelled flights or delays will have more control over their rescheduled flights and will be given two to three flight options to choose from. Presently, the airline automatically books customers onto the next flight.

American’s move to the cloud will allow it to put all three of its consumer-facing interfaces — its website, kiosks and apps — on the same backend system. Among other things, that will allow customers to be able to prepay their baggage fees and check bags from their phone or computers. Consumers can already do that on many other airlines, but not presently on American.

American chose the IBM Cloud because of its compatibility with Cloud Foundry, an open source platform that allows enterprises to manage multiple cloud services in one place, Henry said. That’s vital for American, because it’s such a large company. The largest airline in the world, American Airlines offers an average of 6,700 flights a day across 350 cities.

The company still has many distinct legacy and third-party systems in operation, at least in part because of the company’s 2013 merger with US Airways. Many of these legacy systems will stay in place on the backend, even as the company moves some of its consumer-facing ones to the cloud, the company said in a statement.

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