Industry Update
Opinion Article 6 May 2016

Solution Design for the Travel Industry: Part 4 of 4

Successful development in the travel tech industry requires a comprehensive understanding of both the business and user needs, as well as the technical needs and skill sets

By Greg Abbott, VP Travel & Hospitality at DataArt

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Effective Solution Design involves a systematic and holistic approach to all aspects of development, including human and technical engineering, to build a comprehensive product that allows for changes over time as the business landscape evolves. These concepts are essential components for success in the travel tech industry, as the examples illustrate in the final article in this Solution Design series.


The travel industry is highly complex and continually evolving although some would argue too slowly. From the initial consultative phase through to software development and the ultimate deployment of any product, long-term success is achieved by ensuring flexibility in the solution to allow for future growth. The implementation of sound Solution Design concepts is absolutely essential when integrating a myriad of ideas into a cohesive end product.

The recent success of Expedia illustrates the importance of Solution Design in the travel tech industry. The company made numerous acquisitions throughout its history, including Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago,, HomeAway and others. Expedia faced a massive challenge to integrate these businesses together into a cohesive environment to successfully connect users into systems that run hotels and airlines. It would have been virtually impossible to accomplish this goal without utilizing comprehensive human and technical engineering approaches, making Solution Design an essential component of Expedia's path to success.

Air Canada provides another excellent example of the importance of implementing effective Solution Design principles as a key aspect of establishing itself as a leader in the travel tech industry. Air Canada's booking engine was designed with the necessary flexibility to be altered over time as available options and consumer preferences changed. The airline's website now offers innovative unbundled pricing that allows customers to individually choose the features they desire, such as insurance, meals, pillows, and other options. They were one of the first airlines to implement merchandizing on their website. This was possible not only by having a flexible front-end design but also required the team's ability to build up the back-end to allow different transactions to go to the appropriate cost centers and service departments. Air Canada's practical Solution Design approach enables the company to continue evolving while ultimately increasing revenue and improving customer service.

Conversely, when Solution Design principles are not implemented, the results can be disastrous. One remarkable example of this failure can be found in the Calleam Consulting case study of the Denver Airport Baggage System project from the 1990s. Although the plan was to develop the world's largest automated airport baggage handling system, the lack of Solution Design concepts destroyed the entire project.

The city of Denver elected to build a new state-of-the-art airport to increase its capacity and cement its place as an air transportation hub. The airport was to be the largest in the United States, with a capacity to handle more than 50 million passengers per year. One of the critical components of the plan was the airport's baggage handling system. The development concept was to automate baggage handling to reduce aircraft turnaround time to as little as 30 minutes, thereby creating more efficient operations and giving the airport a highly competitive advantage.

However, the lack of effective Solution Design principles crippled the plans. The development rapidly fell apart due to a massive underestimation of the project's complexity, resulting in snowballing problems and public humiliation. The airport's opening was delayed by 16 months, caused largely by difficulties with the baggage system. The city of Denver paid a massive $1.1 million per day throughout the delay to maintain the empty airport and cover interest charges on construction loans.

To make matters worse, the system was merely a shadow of the original plan when the airport finally opened its doors. As opposed to automating all three concourses into one integrated system, the automation was used only in a single concourse by a single airline, and only for outbound flights. The remainder of the baggage handling was accomplished using simple conveyor belts and a manual tug and trolley system, which was hastily constructed when it became apparent that the conceived automated system would never come to fruition. United Airlines eventually abandoned the system altogether, as the $1 million per month maintenance costs exceeded the monthly cost of a manual tug and trolley system.

The disastrous outcome of the Denver Airport Baggage System project illustrates a valuable example of the importance of ensuring comprehensive Solution Design principles in every phase of development. Solution Design aims to attack and mitigate risks by utilizing a systematic approach in helping the client determine the optimal solution and path for implementation. To ensure the success of a project from the initial analysis stage to the final deliverable product, it is essential to employ equal parts technical and human engineering.

The vast majority of development projects do not transpire in a vacuum but instead occur within the existing technological landscape of an organization. Successful development in the travel tech industry requires a comprehensive understanding of both the business and user needs, as well as the technical needs and skill sets that exist within the company.

The complexities of the travel industry require development projects to employ extensive Solution Design principles that involve all-encompassing analysis of both the technical and human aspects of the client's requirements to establish comprehensive integration and flexibility, leading to long-term growth and the ultimate success of the end product.

Greg Abbott

Gregory Abbott is a recognized expert in the Travel Industry, with 15 + years expertise in retail travel, travel technology, and tour operations. Greg joined DataArt in 2010 as a Senior Vice President in charge of Travel & Hospitality practice, having relocated from Europe, where he was most recently Commercial Officer and Product Director at Nexgen Travel Distribution.

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    About DataArt:

    DataArt is a global technology consultancy that designs, develops and supports unique software solutions, helping clients take their businesses forward. Recognized for their deep domain expertise and superior technical talent, DataArt teams create new products and modernize complex legacy systems that affect technology transformation in select industries.

    DataArt has earned the trust of some of the world's leading brands and most discerning clients, including Nasdaq, S&P, United Technologies, oneworld Alliance, Ocado, artnet, Betfair, and skyscanner. Organized as a global network of technology services firms. DataArt brings together expertise of over 2,200 professionals in 20 locations in the US, Europe, and Latin America.

    Andrew Sanders
    VP, Travel & Hospitality - North America
    Phone: +1.919.762.6599
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