ABU DHABI // Etihad Airways’ “Big Switch” came online yesterday evening, ending one of the company’s largest IT projects.
The upgrade has been met by a mixture of relief and frustration from passengers.
The Abu Dhabi airline switched to a new online platform in a 10-year deal with global firm Sabre worth more than US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn). But the website had to be offline from Friday night until about 6pm yesterday.
Gordon Penfold, Etihad’s senior vice president of Information Technology, said this was the largest single infrastructure project undertaken by the company, intended to simplify passenger handling and reduce processing times and operating costs.
“This is the biggest, most exciting and most defining investment that Etihad will make in the next 10 years,” he said. “We will have one of the fastest, most efficient systems in the airline industry to manage the guest experience, from browsing and booking flights to check in and baggage transfer. Our investment now will put us well ahead of many of our competitors.”
Being offline for almost two days meant passengers could not book flights or check in online, instead using contact centres, travel agents or Etihad offices.
The airline advised all passengers to check in up to four hours before flights, and many said the process went smoothly. The airline responded to customer complaints on social-media websites individually.
On Twitter, Eliana El Rahbany (@ms_eli) wrote that she was delayed for 12 hours. Etihad replied: “@ms_eli Can you tell us which flight you’re on (flight no.), so we can investigate and get back to you accordingly.”
The airline responded later with: “The arrival time to Shanghai would be 11.10am Shanghai time (GMT+8). Thank you.”
Etihad also apologised to customers. One read: “@lutfizakhour Hi Lutfi, We are sorry, there is a one hour delay to your flight. Please view the screens at the airport for information.”
Another apology read: “@pmccarthy86 Hi Patrick, We are so sorry to hear of your experience. Please email the complete details to email@example.com.”
Passengers posted that delays ranged from one hour to 12.
A statement from Etihad last night said: “Etihad Airways is on schedule to complete by tomorrow the transition to a new $1bn global technology platform, governing all of its reservations, ticketing, check in and baggage handling.
“The system change caused some delays this morning for transit passengers at Abu Dhabi International Airport, and technical issues have delayed the activation of Etihad Airways’ new global websites, preventing guests from booking flights or checking in via Etihad.com.