CanJet leans on IT to retake the skies

CanJet Airlines returned to the friendly skies last week with the help of cables in the ground.

Dale Rockwell, the Halifax-based company’s director of IT, says it managed to build the entire IT infrastructure from almost scratch

in less than three months. An important element of that is the communications system.

The division of IMP Group Ltd. is outsourcing its reservation system to Navitaire, Inc. in Salt Lake City, while the reservation call centre is based in Bathurst, N.B.

“”Basically we have a 128 K frame line in between Salt Lake and our Bathurst facility, and we go out to each of our airports with frame 56 K lines,”” Rockwell says, along with 512 K between Burthurst and its six airports. “”I’ve also got that same 512 in here in Halifax. We built in some redundancy so that if we had a problem in Bathurst that we could revert to Halifax and go out to our airports.””

CanJet has four Boeing 737s and by early July will be providing service to Moncton, Halifax, St. John’s, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. This is CanJet’s second incarnation as a low-fare airline after being bought in March 2001 by rival Canada 3000, which subsequently folded in November 2001.

Rockwell says it used Navitaire’s Open Skies application the last time and some of the call centre hardware is the same. The frame network was built from scratch, but that isn’t to say the architecture was new.

“”We were in the process when we were sold of looking at building additional redundancy in (the network). So we had gone through a complete review of our network and we actually had all those drawings. When it came time to start again basically we hauled those drawings out,”” Rockwell says.

The security around the airline industry has changed a great deal since CanJet was sold last year, but according to Rockwell it hasn’t had much of an impact on his end. He says it uses VeriSign for bookings security and the standard IMP firewall used throughout the company. The airports and reservation companies, he says, are where significant changes have been made. In fact, it doesn’t have so much as a server at any of the airports. He says all the data about customer check-in and baggage is done through Internet protocol and routers.

Rockwell is quick to add there is more to an airline than baggage information.

“”IMP started the airline process about two-and-a-half months ago and in that time we’ve managed to put a ton of technology in place. From the networking infrastructure to a booking engine and getting a Web site back up and running, putting maintenance systems in, flight operations systems, financial systems, and you name it,”” he says, crediting his staff — 80 percent of whom left jobs to return to CanJet — for getting the job done.

Bob Mann is an airline consultant and president of RW Mann & Company Inc. in Port Washington, NY. He says CanJet’s operation should be stable as until growth becomes as issue.

“”The nice thing about a small operation is that most of the services and connectivity that you would use are available off the shelf, as long as you’re willing to take what’s on the shelf,”” Mann.

“”The problem becomes more acute as an airline grows in both network complexity and service complexity in that the amount of communications increases dramatically and the amount of information management required to profitably run an operation increases dramatically.””

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