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American Airlines Extends Data Access with Adaptive Server

Published
  • July 01 1998, 1:00am EDT
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PLATFORMS: Sybase IQ 11.5 runs on a Sun Enterprise 5000 12-way server.

BACKGROUND: American Airlines' Passenger Revenue Accounting Department bears responsibility for the annual processing and financial reporting of more than 125 million passenger tickets, vouchers and non-transportation documents valued in excess of $15 billion.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The department relies on a data warehouse solution to help use the data collected in day-to-day business operations to maximize revenues while minimizing IT costs. It is now able to extend data access and analysis capabilities from four database analysts, responsible for executing queries on behalf of the group's decision-makers, to 100 decision-makers. These analysts can now directly access and easily analyze data that in the past they might not have known existed and turn it into a strategic business tool. With these new capabilities, they are able to continually invent new ways to harness, manipulate and use that data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The department has implemented a decision support system called the Revenue Accounting Data Access Resource (RADAR) which allows analysts to quickly and easily turn ticket sales data into a business analysis resource. RADAR helps discover revenue enhancement opportunities, improve operational efficiency and reduce operational costs. Before the system went into full production, one isolated example in fraud detection helped identify missing vouchers that allowed it to recover more than $60,000 in the first week RADAR was running. RADAR has resulted in other cost savings as well. By no longer having to rely on IS for reports or data queries, the airline saves at least $200,000 a year in costs while getting results much faster than previously possible.

STRENGTHS: Sybase Adaptive Server IQ is optimized for decision support and stores data in a way that conserves storage resources and increases database speed. It is easy to install and deploy, and its indexing methodology practically eliminates the need to tune the database, reducing the amount of time invested in managing the system. Adaptive Server IQ is also easy to upgrade-- a recent upgrade took only 30 minutes. In addition, Sybase provides excellent technical support. Adaptive Server IQ is also scalable and flexible, allowing American Airlines to expand their data warehouse to accommodate changing needs, ultimately extending the life and value of the data warehouse.

WEAKNESSES: Because Adaptive Server IQ is designed specifically for decision support, it lacks OLTP capabilities. (Sybase's new Warehouse Studio data warehousing platform includes OLTP capabilities.) The database is RAM hungry. (This, however, is not a big problem since memory prices have dropped.) The current version of Adaptive Server IQ requires the backup utility to be executed on the server console.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The principal reason the department selected Adaptive Server IQ was that it delivered high performance while conserving hardware costs. Adaptive Server IQ was the only database that offered the type of performance necessary to answer queries developed on the fly. It performed four to six times faster than any of the databases the airline benchmarked. It was measured to be 15 times faster than their previous system.

DELIVERABLES: American Airlines uses RADAR to detect fraud (including travel agency fraud, fare violation attempts and investigation support). They rely on the system to analyze marketing and sales support data to uncover revenue maximization opportunities as well as to audit transactions. The airline also uses RADAR in a variety of accounting functions and to validate mainframe data.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Sybase provided excellent pre-sales support and post- implementation support has been top notch.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is clear and explanatory. American Airlines might have been able to implement the technology using only the published documentation, but a training session improved their confidence level.

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