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American Airlines flies its data warehouse to the cloud

The pandemic hit American Airlines hard, but its management took an optimistic view, seeing at as an opportunity to use data more effectively to improve operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges in the history of American Airlines as air travel came to a standstill.

In a session at the Forrester Data Strategy and Insights 2021 virtual event on Nov. 18, Jason Newton, managing director of data engineering, analytics and automation at American Airlines, outlined how the organization changed the way it uses its data warehouse.

Newton detailed how the airline transformed its data use patterns over the course of the pandemic to benefit from cloud and real-time data insights using the Teradata Vantage platform.

"To have essentially all travel stop and then continue being suppressed for over a year has been a real challenge for us," Newton said. "Our leadership team, though, had a great take on it from the very beginning, and they said let's not waste a crisis, there are opportunities when you have to really buckle down and get into survival mode."

American Airlines looked to identify different ways it could be more efficient and according to Newton, it became clear early on that data was the way to uncover new opportunities and change the way the airline made decisions.

How American Airlines used its data warehouse before the cloud

Newton said that before the pandemic, American largely used its data warehouse for historical purposes, such as what happened the day before if there were irregular operations, in order help solve a problem the next time it came up.

There has been a shift in demand where the operation no longer wants to look at what happened yesterday with data; they want to see what's happening right now.
Jason NewtonManaging director of data engineering, analytics and automation, American Airlines

"There has been a shift in demand where the operation no longer wants to look at what happened yesterday with data; they want to see what's happening right now," Newton said. "If you can think about all the logistics issues of a global airline, being able to pinpoint what's happening at the very point that an issue starts, versus the next day, could hold extreme value not just to the company from a revenue perspective, but to our passengers from the results and getting to the places that they want to go."

To help get real-time data insights, Newton said American has been working with Teradata, using the Microsoft Azure cloud and Teradata Vantage cloud analytics and data warehouse platform. The airline's goal with the cloud data deployment is to get the data into a platform on which the airline can look at real-time streaming data as well as warehouse data and do queries across both.

Bringing the data warehouse to the cloud

Transitioning the data to the cloud is yielding results, according to Newton.

Newton said the airline uses Teradata widely across the organization, with nearly every group in the company maintaining data in the platform. He noted that even though the Teradata deployment is a data warehouse and not an operational system, American Airlines deems it to be a critical system for its success.

"We treat it like a critical system and we even have disaster recovery stood up for it," Newton said, "because so many users use it on a daily basis to make decisions about how to run the operation of the airline."

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