American Airlines Learned About Third Party Failures the Hard Way
A third party app that American Airlines' pilots require in order to fly a plane failed recently. As a result, 74 flights were delayed.
The need for businesses across all sorts of industries to have performance monitoring strategies and reliable backup systems cannot be overstated. eCommerce companies in particular know that when the site goes down, potential customers can’t shop on the site and revenue will drop. But it’s not just eCommerce; the effects of failures can be as wide-ranging as the amount of industries that rely on online services.
The airline industry just learned that lesson the hard way, and travelers are the ones who ultimately paid the price.
Having replaced the heavy “flight bags” that pilots must have on them with iPads that store all of the charts and materials necessary to fly a plane, American Airlines has clearly valued new technology in an attempt to streamline their pilot manifestos. But like every new component that gets added to an online system, those iPads and the software they run have to be tested and monitored to ensure that they’re functioning properly. And when they don’t, there has to be a better alternative than what American’s pilots were forced to do.
Due to glitches in the navigation software on the tablets, pilots were unable to successfully access the flight maps, and in some cases had to return to the terminal because they needed to connect to WiFi to fix the issue. Afterwards, the airline cited a failure with a third party app on the tablets as the cause of the problem, and as a result, 74 flights were delayed between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
We’ve spent plenty of time highlighting the needs for proactive third party monitoring, SLAs, reliability testing, and proper redundancies or backup systems. And while lost transactions or data are the most common results from mishaps in third party apps, you can now add missing grandma’s birthday party for which you took a day off of work and booked a cross-country flight to that list.
American announced that hard copy versions of the materials provided on the tablets will now be available to pilots in the event of another failure in the future. And while that’s not a bad worst-case scenario, we have to wonder if there isn’t a more efficient strategy available that doesn’t involve printing out hundreds of thousands of pages of material – another redundant app through a different vendor, perhaps? Regardless, we certainly hope that a stringent APM strategy is being put in place as well.