Home Business IT Business Telecommunications Continuing problems make airline no virgin to computer woes

Continuing problems make airline no virgin to computer woes

Virgin Blue has suffered the crash of its Windows-based Navitaire reservation system again this morning, continuing the problems the airline experienced just two days ago on Sunday.



Navitaire's New Skies reservation system claims to be "built on a flexible and scalable .NET framework which provides open Web service access to many functions. That gives you the ability to:

  • Connect with third parties easily and incorporate new services and new technologies into your reservation and distribution system. Integration with third party airport check-in kiosks and establishing booking services with travel distributors are just two examples of what you can do with New Skies Web Services.
  • Handle demand load spikes and scale easily as your passenger volume increases
  • Leverage the world's most proven, high-capacity airline Internet booking engine to increase your direct sales
  • Slash time to market for enhancements and new features"

Virgin Blue - as well as many thousands of business and personal travelers - will be questioning just how accurate these claims are with the system crashing for the second time in as many days.

Flights were again delayed this morning during the busy peak  flight time from 5:10am to 7:00am while Virgin Blue staff struggled to cope with manual check-in processes.

Virgin Blue has placed the blame with its provider, Accenture subsidiary Navitaire, and is considering legal action.


Navitaire states 'over 70 airlines rely on Navitaire, including a majority of the largest low-cost and many of the world's most successful carriers.'


Navitaire's flagship products include its New Skies and Open Skies online reservations and ticketing systems. Virgin Blue has been using New Skies software since June after a two-year $11m transition from the earlier Open Skies platform. Ironically New Skies was chosen partly because the platform appeared capable of supporting the airline's growth.


New Skies .NET platform is consistent with Accenture's reputation as a Microsoft Windows shop, although the question must be asked as to whether the technology is up to the job following previous defections from Microsoft to Linux such as that of notable high-volume enterprise, the London Stock Exchange.

iTWire sought to obtain a statement from Navitaire but the Australian telephone number diverted to a U.S. call centre, where a perplexed operator asked me to e-mail a request so they could determine the correct department who should respond.

The operator was initially reluctant to discuss any matters unless I had a specific trouble ticket number, but did eventually concede Navitaire had experienced "some issues with Virgin Blue earlier today".


Sunday's failure was blamed on a failure with the solid state disks used by Navitaire's hosted servers. Initial attempts to repair the fault were unsuccessful and failed to satisfy the resolution timeframe agreed in Virgin Blue's service level agreement.

A Virgin Blue spokesperson told iTWire that Navitaire was supposed to have a parallel system in place and in case of disaster this would go live within three hours. However, it did not actually come into play until almost a full day after the first incident.

Today's faults apparently arose from a failure during testing of the newly commissioned replacement system.

The spokesperson said Navitaire is preparing a detailed report for Virgin Blue executives on what went wrong. In the meantime, Virgin Blue has stated they will seek compensation from Navitaire but 'at this time our guests are our first priority.'



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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.