How airlines can mitigate downtime during summer surges

Andy Burghes, Netscout EMEA VP, discusses the risks of poor network visibility and how airlines can avoid downtimes ahead of peak surges.

Airline companies rely on their digital applications and networks for nearly every function, including rescheduling and connecting flights, checking baggage, providing departure times, modifying ticket and passenger information, booking trips, and communicating with airport staff and cabin crew.  

Throughout the summer season, many airlines will face ongoing surges of online flight bookings and general traffic to their internet and digital systems for every step of the customer journey.

Andy Burghes, Netscout EMEA VP

While travel surges are good for business, they can cause serious network outages for unprepared airline companies, which can greatly impact travel plans for their customers.  

As airlines rely heavily on their network systems to deliver all elements of the travel experience, the impact of downtime can be significant – costing organisations more than £120m to repair in some cases.

Some airlines have suffered cancellations and delays due to system outages months before the peak season began. Therefore, it is crucial that both airports and airlines have prepared their digital networks and applications ahead of peak summertime travel demands.  

The risks of network downtime and poor network visibility  

After years of restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, the travel industry is finally recovering. European airports experienced a 250% increase in passenger volumes during the first half of 2022 – and this trend seems to be continuing in 2023.  

Although travel surges bring an influx in profits for airlines, this sudden spike in demand puts massive pressure on the global aviation industry to run at peak performance – subsequently causing occasional network outages.

Network outages can result in cancellations and delays of hundreds of expecting flights and can affect thousands of passengers – varying from minor inconveniences to major disruptions. 

Pinpointing the direct cause of a network outage can be very difficult.

For example, during the recent winter holiday season, airlines experienced major cancellations and delays due to network downtime alone, which impacted thousands of customers. This, combined with external complications – such as strikes and poor weather conditions – only added to the disruption.  

These periods of downtime brought about substantial consequences for affected airlines including serious financial implications, internal operational issues, and reputational losses. However, pinpointing the direct cause of a network outage can be very difficult.

How to avoid network downtimes

Visibility into the network can help avoid downtimes by allowing organisations to monitor the data, traffic, and various components held within their digital network.

The degree of visibility can also help them navigate complexities within their networks and improve network performance, cybersecurity, and overall efficiency.  

Poor visibility can be detrimental to the performance of a network as potential problems can unintentionally be overlooked or difficult to identify.

It is important that airlines improve their visibility into their digital environments to accurately identify the source of a problem and address it before it affects their customers.

Therefore, both airline companies and airport operators should consider preemptive strategies to prevent possible downtimes from occurring and avoid the risks that may follow.  

Scalable deep packet inspection 

Aviation organisations can achieve this with the use of scalable deep packet inspection solutions, which provide full visibility into the performance of their applications and networks.

These solutions work by accelerating the resolution process of extremely complex cybersecurity, network, and application disruptions by accurately detecting and identifying the direct cause of any existing issues as fast as possible.

Scalable deep packet inspection solutions support and process vast amounts of data.

Their capabilities can also be applied to all aspects of a company’s network environment – including public, private, and hybrid cloud, as well as on-premises.

Scalable deep packet inspection solutions support and process vast amounts of data within a network environment to ensure that vital digital services are provided to passengers throughout their travel experience.

Additionally – and just as important – scalable deep packet inspection solutions reduce the mean time to repair (MTTR) and help to mitigate any interference within the network from impacting their passengers.  

Ensuring smooth travels 

Airports and airline companies cannot afford to face network outages in any capacity, especially during peak holiday travel times.

Travel surges are when airlines can truly show what their services have to offer customers, so it is imperative that they provide smooth, end-to-end experiences throughout the passenger journey.  

The operational challenges seen during the recent winter holiday season highlight the importance of mitigating digital service disruptions and are a clear example of the risks that can occur when appropriate strategies are not put in place.

By regularly monitoring and preventing possible network and application performance issues with scalable deep packet inspection solutions, the aviation industry can ensure their passengers are given the best experience possible – and ultimately ensure their business continuity.