There have been a number of high-profile snafus at airports this year, and while bad weather tends to be the most prominent cause, it's not the only culprit. Last month, passengers traveling on US Airways faced massive delays after self-service kiosks suffered a glitch, stemming from the company's ongoing attempt to merge its reservation system with that of America West Airlines, which it acquired two years ago. While most industries have invested heavily to upgrade their IT systems over the years, the major airlines still rely primarily on legacy mainframe systems that were developed in the 70s. For day to day operations, these systems get the job done, but they're not very flexible. Even when weather is a major factor in an airline's problems, the lack of a good IT setup can exacerbate the problem. In February, jetBlue suffered a major meltdown, in part because the company was not sufficiently prepared to track its assets in the event of a major crisis. Following the fiasco, the company claimed that it had upgraded many of its systems, although considering the difficulty and time it takes to upgrade enterprise systems, it's hard to imagine that much has already changed. Part of the reason the industry may be so behind in modernizing its IT is that for many years, most of the major carriers were hemorrhaging cash and teetering on insolvency -- hardly the ideal conditions for major investments. But now most of the airlines are profitable again, and with 2007 looking like another bad year for things like delays and lost luggage, it might be time for the industry to invest heavily in its own IT infrastructure.
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