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May 3, 2021

Three Successes During a Pandemic: American Airlines’s DevOps Journey Part 3

By IT Revolution

In the first part of their journey, American Airlines set the stage for DevOps. Then they scaled across the entire business. In the third and final part of our American Airlines case study, we’ll dive into three key success stories that exemplify what their transformation was able to accomplish.

At the same time that America Airlines was scaling their transformation across the organization, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges they were facing, they were able to take their previous learnings and succeed even in the face of monumental change. Here are three of their success stories.

Touchless Kiosks

The pandemic necessitated the need for touchless check-ins. While AA had a touchless check in on their mobile app, if a customer was checking a bag it was still necessary to go to a kiosk and get a bag tag. 

First, the leadership set a clear goal (OKR): encourage their customers to travel by providing a completely touchless check-in experience even when checking bags.

Next, the teams got to work on the how. Through rapid design thinking sessions, the team explored three possible solutions. Then they zeroed in on an MVP and got to work. The leaders were out of the way and the teams were able to not only meet but exceed the laid out OKRs. Their original goal was to see a 25% increase in boarding pass scans to start a kiosk session and increase the use of pre-paid bag functionality in the mobile app by 25%. They achieved 145% increase in board pass scan and 57% increase in use of pre-paid bag functionality. And they reduced the average session time at a kiosk by 17 seconds across 2,100 kiosks in 230 airports in six weeks. 

AA.com

The dot com team came together to start an improvement kata. At the time, they set a north star goal that when a developer submits a pull request, their code will be in production within one hour and every step will be automated, no one will touch the code after the pull request. 

“At that time the goal was laughable. Literally the people around that room were laughing out loud. They’d been on a transformation journey for years, they’d driven a lot of improvements in velocity, but still there were a lot of technical integrations, silos, handoffs…a lot of barriers and impediments they had to overcome to get there and it didn’t seem possible at the time,” said Ross Clanton.

What came next was a journey to continuously improve, they cleared one impediment at a time. They tackled process barriers, the integrated QA silo, test automation, moved to Kubernetes, etc. Ultimately a year later they achieved their goal with a lead time to get changes to environment from three weeks to one hour. With this success they’ve been able to get rid of the release calendar. No more batch releases.

Legacy COTS

DevOps practices aren’t limited to digital. They can also be applied to legacy COTS. At American Airlines, their loyalty product runs on Seibel. AA moved it onto a hybrid cloud model and then invested in CI/CD pipelines to automate delivery and infrastructure end to end for their loyalty product. Since that move, teams are deploying more frequently, with more than fifty automated deployments in just a few months, plus 2x faster loyalty web service response times, and 32% cost optimization in the cloud.

What’s more, from this move the conversation between the business and IT changed. Instead of the business waiting on IT for changes, the teams are able to deploy more frequently and seamlessly than the business is even ready to validate and accept. Now the product teams, in partnership with the business and IT teams, are looking at how to optimize the end to end process to achieve higher deployment frequency.


You can watch the full American Airlines 2020 DevOps Enterprise Summit-Virtual presentation in the IT Revolution video library.

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IT Revolution

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1 Comment

  • PGDCR May 5, 2021 11:46 am

    Hello, Thank you very much for this informative blog. Thank you so much…Keep sharing

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