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CIO Profile: EasyJet's Trevor Didcock on snapping at the flag carriers' heels
CIO Profile: EasyJet's Trevor Didcock on budget discipline and the sexiness of airlines

In pictures: EasyJet challenges flag carriers

From a technology standpoint Trevor Didcock, CIO of easyJet is assessing how the airline delivers disruption information to travellers as well as examining the possibility of allowing them to check in using mobile devices.

In the back office of the bright orange Luton HQ there are also strategies to improve the way easyJet segments its data."At the moment we are not very sophisticated in our personalised marketing. We are getting Sitecore CMS and that will start to improve personalisation of our offering this year," Didcock explains.

"We also have a big data warehouse that does a lot of segmentation as we are looking to bring all that together. With BI there is so much that you can do; not only with customer information, but also on time performance: our guys can get granular information to take them down to why a plane didn't leave on time."

Didcock explains that every one of the 204 Airbus planes easyJet operates converses with the company's IT, telling it when the door's shut, when the aircraft leaves and sharing a host of other data. This has allowed the airline to assess fuel usage, ground control service levels and implement single-engine taxi propulsion to save on expensive fuel.

Didcock divides the business into two distinct areas: sales and operations.

"Our website does £3bn worth of transactions a year, so it is very much an online retail platform and is the most visited travel website in the UK. Operations and commercial IT teams are split, supporting very different platforms: I have a cross-functional team for architecture and it is fascinating as you have to link the two."

On the commercial side easyJet is developing an app to meet increasing demand from smartphone users. EasyJet already captures £5m of revenue a month through mobile devices but Didcock hopes a dedicated application will make the process of supplying information easier for travellers.

"They are doing it on a BlackBerry and it's impossible on that. I did an Esta form for entry to the US once, it was very frustrating," he quips.

Didcock's operational plans will also improve the lives of its customers. The airline is already comfortable with cloud computing, using hosted staff roster and flight route planning and bookings systems from Aims, Lufthansa and Amadeus respectively. As a Microsoft house easyJet plans to use Redmond's Azure cloud platform to release the airline from fixed terminals at airports for boarding and check in.

Seasonal adjustments
Halo is an Azure-developed application for self-service kiosks and handheld devices. It enables easyJet to operate independently of the airport infrastructure so saving costs but also to carry out functions such as boarding and upselling away from desks and desktops, making the whole process more customer-friendly and flexible.

Another business benefit is that for seasonal airports such as Bodrum in Turkey the airline will be able to open the airport within a day of scheduled flights starting and close it again a day after the schedule ends.

Halo is currently being tested in Palma, Edinburgh, Geneva and Copenhagen airports in what Didcock describes as the early days of implementation. If successful, Halo will remove costs for easyJet as the airlines are charged for the use of every boarding and check-in desk and infrastructure.

"Boarding is quite archaic at present," Didcock explains.

"The airline industry has a lack of collaboration. We have a good relationship with airports like Gatwick, but it is still hard to find ways to collaborate. Halo is an application to circumvent some of the services offered by airports as it is mobile and creates a direct relationship with the customer."

Didcock doesn't stop there with his assessment of how airlines can use technology to change the relationships they have with suppliers and increase the costs they can take out of the business.

"Ground handling at airports is changing and we are working with Menzies Aviation, our outsourced handler, on this. We are all trying to deliver a great customer experience. Why wouldn't you work together? If you take cost out you can share that."