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Don’t let unreliable IP routers ruin your airline’s reputation

Originally published on TrackTalk [December 2015]

If long lines at check-in, security and boarding gates were already bad enough, unpredictable delays and cancelled flights due to IP networking problems are a potential public relations disaster for airlines.

Unfortunately for a famous airline company in the USA this is exactly what happened on July 8. A problem with a simple IP router degraded network connectivity for various applications, forcing the airline to suspend operations for 1h 47min during the morning peak. 59 flights were subsequently cancelled and 800 delayed as chaos ensued at airports across the United States. Thousands of passengers were forced to wait and many missed connections as planes were left out of position.

Inevitably many passengers took to social media to voice their displeasure, comparing the performance of the airline to others which were not experiencing any problems that morning and vowing never to use their services again. They were apologetic in response, but it may take months, even years, for its reputation to recover.

In a highly competitive industry with airlines regularly cutting prices to attract passengers from their direct competitors as well as high-speed train services, it’s a situation that airlines must strive to avoid. But what can IT and Telecom managers do to prevent these incidents from happening?

Utilising IP/MPLS technology for communications network architecture is one solution that will deliver the reliability required. IP/MPLS’ key technologies are able to prevent a problem like a minor router failure from grounding flights and as a result it is increasingly becoming the preferred platform for airlines and airports to build their mission-critical communications networks.

One of the key features of IP/MPLS is high network availability and resiliency through “non-stop” technologies like non-stop routing (NSR), non-stop services (NSS), Link Aggregation Group (LAG) and Fast Reroute (FRR). Its flexible design also enables IP/MPLS to meet any network topology while always guaranteeing high-performance and resilience. It also has multi-tenancy capabilities offering aviation stakeholders the chance to share a common networking infrastructure without compromising their own network.

With concerns growing over cyber terrorism, added resilience is available to prevent possible network attacks through critical network infrastructure (CNI), which includes a range of embedded security features like Network Access Control (NAC), Network Group Encryption (NGE), and traffic anomaly detection. In addition, IP/MPLS supports the next generation of communications networks that will leverage cloud technologies like Software Defined Network (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV).

Indeed, IP/MPLS is not just for today, it is for the future of all airline IT and communications. If designed well and all of its features are used correctly, IP/MPLS will provide the platform for delivering reliable and competitive flights and services that are attractive to customers for many years to come. With IP/MPLS, a simple router issue will never ground a flight again.

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