BA sets out plan to revamp IT, add AI and update website

British Airways has unveiled a $7bn modernisation programme that will see hundreds of systems migrated to the cloud, and the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and air to ground customer service.

Earlier this week, BA CEO Sean Doyle announced a modernisation plan that includes a commitment to delivering a world-class customer experience and modernising IT.

Last year, analyst Forrester reported that airlines are missing out on $1.4bn in annual revenue due to not offering a well-rounded customer experience. BA has applied AI and aircraft connectivity in its arsenal to keep passengers happy.

At an event unveiling the strategy, he said: “We’re on a journey to a better BA for our people and for our customers, underpinned by a transformation programme that will see us invest £7bn over the next two years to revolutionise our business.” 

Over the past six years, the airline has experienced a number of major IT outages that disrupted flights due to datacentre failures. It was also fined £20m by the Information Commissioner’s Office for a data breach revealing the personal and financial data of some of its customers. Among the areas covered in his speech is an investment of £750m in BA IT infrastructure to migrate 700 systems and thousands of servers to the cloud by early next year.

The airline said it would be investing £100m in machine learning, automation and AI across its operation. BA said these technologies are being deployed to drive improvements from bookings to baggage handling, helping to revolutionise its operation, speed up departures and respond to disruption. “Innovative new tools are helping to predict delays (prompting pre-emptive action to reduce disruption), and analyse real-time weather, aircraft capacity and customer connections data to help teams make better decisions,” BA said.

Doyle added: “We’re also heavily investing in the development of a new website and app, and are laser-focused on transforming our business and fixing any pain points for our customers.” 

The digital user experience is being enhanced through a new website and mobile app that offers what BA called “deeper personalisation”. The revamped website, which is currently in beta, provides a range of self-service offerings for customers, allowing them to take more control of and make changes to their journeys online, rather than having to call one of the airline’s customer care centres to alter their plans. Initial changes will start to roll out by the end of the year. 

The airline said it has also become the first to offer a Wi-Fi-enabled in-flight customer care service, based on a bespoke version of Microsoft Connected Teams, which provides ground-to-air customer care.

Created for British Airways by Microsoft, BA said the system allows customer care teams on the ground to connect with cabin crew colleagues across more than 300 flights a day. The functionality allows crew to help solve any unexpected issues before a flight lands at one of the airline’s more than 200 destinations.


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