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Flight Centre CTO: Our 'new normal' is better level of IT performance

Flight Centre CTO: Our 'new normal' is better level of IT performance

Angus Armstrong on how ICT helps meet customer demands and increase sales in the 'Golden Era of Travel'

In the past year, we’ve seen a number of new airlines choose to fly to New Zealand and there have been 19 new routes announced - Angus Armstrong, CTO, Flight Centre NZ
In the past year, we’ve seen a number of new airlines choose to fly to New Zealand and there have been 19 new routes announced - Angus Armstrong, CTO, Flight Centre NZ

Over the past year, we have seen a number of new airlines choose to fly to New Zealand and there have been 19 new routes announced, observes Angus Armstrong, chief technology officer at Flight Centre.

"This has made travel more affordable and accessible than ever before,” says Armstrong who became CTO of the New Zealand office of the global travel retailer over a year ago

“We’re in a ‘Golden Era’ for travel in New Zealand.”

Before this, Armstrong was the IT operations team leader. A graduate of marketing and technology at AUT, Armstrong also worked at Flight Centre in the UK for nine years.

Flight Centre has more than 200 retail stores and businesses across New Zealand, with around 1200 staff.

Among their major programmes to reach both leisure and business travellers is their bi-annual travel expos, which they hold with their suppliers.

During these events, the travel consultants need access to all the applications they use in-store, and high-definition video to show potential customers footage and virtual tours of hotels and destinations.

Armstrong says during these events, there is also a spike in large and unpredictable amount of print traffic, mainly from PDF-format travel documents when consultants make the booking.

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“We were making expos larger and larger, and the internet connection was not getting larger and larger because it would be supplied by the venue,” he says.

Flight Centre deployed Riverbed SteelHead appliances to accelerate application performance for the travel expo events around the country. He then deployed the system at 42 of their permanent retail storefronts.

Since we put the system in place, we’ve reduced bandwidth by 30 percent and print traffic by almost 90 per cent. This means we’re able to have 50 to 60 additional travel experts at the events, as well as a more productive workforce because of the performance improvements across the board, says Armstrong.

“It has really introduced a new normal for our travel consultants of what they perceive to be the performance of the network," he adds. "It is just a better level of performance.”

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We have a clear picture of what applications are being used, more than just from the ports or traffic on a router, but from the performance of the actual applications.

Angus Armstrong, Flight Centre NZ

The other benefit is it is easy to see what apps and traffic are going on in your network, he says. “You have to ability to potentially see something that you weren’t aware of.”

He explains their computers all run virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) from a centralised server hundreds of kilometres away from the retail branch, making optimal WAN performance critical to the business.

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He says any delay in data transferred across the network slows the entire session and not just one application.

"The systems give a clear picture of what applications are being used, more than just from the ports or traffic on a router, but from the performance of the actual applications," explains Armstrong. These help the travel experts become more productive and keep customers happy.

He says they are now planning to test videoconferencing platforms for staff training. They are also exploring video-chat with customers - an application that was previously too demanding to even consider.

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Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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