November marked one year since migration of Russia’s largest airline group Aeroflot into passenger service system (PSS) Leonardo, developed and hosted in Russia. The migration was one of the critical steps in ensuring IT-autonomy of Russia’s flagship carrier, and became an unprecedented and unique case in the global airline industry.
The system, created by Sirena-Travel in partnership with Rostec, replaced a Western service and now provides schedule and resource management capabilities, as well as distribution and connecting flights functions.
Result of this tremendous effort is information security and personal identity data protection for passengers and crews, as well as the airline’s independence on foreign systems, disruptions and terminations linked to the ongoing sanctions and restrictions.
Leonardo has become a reliable alternative, ensuring sustainable operations and preventing loss of critical data. It effectively repels numerous DDoS-attacks.
“Cyber attacks, unprecedented in their scale, which we have registered in dozens in the last months, were unable to cause critical damage to the system. For the year in operation, the total downtime has not exceeded 40 minutes, and after every attack our experts managed to quickly recover the system’s stability while maintaining the usual level of comfort for passengers and airlines,” Alexander Nazarov, Rostec’s deputy director commented.
Since November last year more than 45 million trips of Aeroflot Group’s passengers were processed in the Russian system.
“The first year of operations showed that this distribution system has all necessary capabilities, which cater for both operational and commercial processes of Russia’s largest airline,” said Anton Matskevich, Aeroflot’s deputy general director for IT.
Aeroflot has gained profound understanding of the system’s infrastructure and now shares its experience of implementing and operating Leonardo with its partners. In October the Russia’s flagship carrier held a seminar for Venezuelan airline Conviasa, showcasing the system’s capabilities. Conviasa’s planned migration into the Russian GDS in early 2024, will enable joint flight operations with Aeroflot, whereby the passengers will be able to benefit from the loyalty programs of both airlines.
Now that the system operates reliably on daily basis, Aeroflot reveals the details of its migration into the system – a unique achievement in global airline industry, when a migration of such scale was achieved in record-breaking period.
RUSSIAN-MADE PASSENGER SERVICE SYSTEM
Leonardo PSS was conceived then customization and personal approach started gaining traction as a trend in the global airline industry. It was officially launched in 2014. But it proved indispensable in the times of sanction pressure, when Russian airlines were subjected to a real threat of being disconnected from western GDSs and the risks of losing critical data.
The Russian government commanded transfer of air travel IT activity into Russian distribution systems in 2019 with the aim of developing national information technology and ensuring the airline industry’s sovereignty from Western software. The issue of information security was linked to possible leaks of personal data from western systems. Aeroflot used travel booking software provided by the US Sabre Corp. in the period between 2005 and 2022. After the foreign GDS providers refused to place dedicated servers for their Russian airline customers within Russia, and then following termination of contracts under sanction pressure in February 2022 – Aeroflot and all other Russian airlines were instructed by the government to migrate into local systems until November 1, 2022.
Initially Leonardo PSS didn’t completely meet Aeroflot’s requirements – which is nothing unusual. Sabre’s system was being customized to Aeroflot’s requests throughout the entire 17-year period of its operation. So the first step of the migration was to implement dozens of new systems, which had not been adapted to the airline’s operations.
Stage two was the extremely complicated process of transferring millions of records of “live” data – existing active reservations and e-tickets from one system to the other. The global practice of migrations of Aeroflot-sized airlines (the carrier operates up to 500 daily flights) requires up to two years of transition period and stopping all sales for two days for migration. The task set by the state didn’t match these timelines. Aeroflot had six months for preparation and one day for migration.
In June 2022 the airline established a managing committee for the project of migration from Sabre to Leonardo, to coordinate the migration activities across the airline’s 15 departments with over a thousand employees and seven external contractors. The project also included integration of the new service with the operational and financial systems run by Aeroflot, across the entire scope of processes such as schedule management, operations management, passenger and baggage check-in, Aeroflot Bonus loyalty program, billing and settlement services, financial management and reporting. Integration was also required with computer systems used by the airline’s partners and providers, such as Aeroexpress railway, insurance, transfer companies etc.
Notably, in early 2022 the airline conducted training of its departments in case Western systems’ unexpected cut-off, and a scenario was elaborated for urgent migration. By June Aeroflot was prepared for taking emergency actions, while at the same time continuously working on scheduled migration.
This scheduled migration project consisted of several stages – analysis, adaptation of the system’s capabilities, integration and testing. The first stage implied analyzing the incompatible gaps between existing Sabre functions and the capabilities of Leonardo. For this purpose, 2,827 functional tests were conducted, which revealed 788 gaps, of which 432 were blocking, meaning they would not allow launching the full scope of passenger services without losses and made operations and financial transactions impossible.
Aeroflot’s IT department and their peers at Sirena made a tremendous effort of developing 788 patches and upgrades. Both Sirena-Travel and RT-Transcom worked hand-in-hand with Aeroflot, in continuous online conference without taking any days off until the work was done. The amendments were instantly tested until the result was satisfactory.
In parallel, works for developing integrations to link Leonardo with the existing IT systems were carried out, the most difficult of which was integration with Aeroflot Bonus, as Leonardo had no previous experience of compatibility with loyalty systems. In the process, over 100 information streams were covered.
In October, complex testing stage began, which was coupled with continuous upgrades. Following processes had to be checked – sales, passenger service in support center, on Aeroflot’s web-site and onboard, as well as financial records. The testing in turn had three stages. In late October 2022, after six months of intense work, the system was ready for migration.
The final stage of the project – the migration per se, was the shortest – just two days – but the most complicated. Aeroflot had one day to migrate into Leonardo – which meant stopping all sales in Sabre, uploading millions of reservations and tickets onto Aeroflot’s storage space, launching Leonardo, uploading all files into the new system and re-opening sales. Only 22 hours were set for the migration process. Prior to it a preparation was launched for check-in system, because stopping flight operations was not an option. In advance, millions of files were prepared. And finally, at 4 p.m. Moscow time on October 29, 2022 the migration process was launched. All steps were defined down to a minute, and all specialists were on high alert.
The new system became operational on schedule, on October 30, 2022. More than a hundred integration streams were launched into operational and financial systems seamlessly and with no disruptions, passenger service continued in all points of sales.
Not a single flight was delayed by Aeroflot in the migration process. Thousands of specialists worked simultaneously, and every 30 minutes information on each step was collected and analyzed. All tasks were conducted in due time and completely.
Now that the migration is history, Aeroflot is working with Sirena-Travel and RT-Transcom on enhancing Leonardo with a number of important tasks still to be accomplished to improve and diversify passenger services.
Russian Aviation Insider
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