Lufthansa accelerates the progress of travel innovation
- Spur innovation by encouraging external partners to make data available
- Create and deliver solution in a short timeframe
- Simplify external developer access to airline data functions
- Whenever possible, employ standard methods like HTTP protocol
- Reduce application development and maintenance costs
- Increased sales by improving brand visibility and targeting more precisely
- Improved travel experience for Lufthansa customers
- Positioned Lufthansa as an innovative organization
DXC designs and implements open API for leading German airline
Leading German airline, Lufthansa, wants to improve traveller experience throughout all touch-points and increase its brand visibility. To encourage innovation it decided to make its data more readily available to external innovators by creating an Open Application Programming Interface (API). DXC services provided design and implementation.
Need for more travel services
Improving and enhancing travel services is the key business driver for airlines as they fight for their share of the
intensely competitive air travel market which, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), saw
3.3 billion passengers fly in 2014 in a market estimated to be worth USD$746 billion.
Operators acknowledge this and recognise the need for more innovative travel services but they just don’t have sufficient internal development resources to do it themselves and address specific new markets.
They have to make use of external software developers to satisfy the growing demand and that is the case with leading German carrier, Lufthansa. In 2014, its Passenger Airline Group, which includes SWISS and Austrian Airlines, achieved total revenues of €30 billion with more than one million flights taking nearly 106 million passengers to destinations in over 100 countries.
“Developers could only use screen parsing-based logic to integrate Lufthansa data and functions within their apps or obtain dedicated access using Lufthansa enterprise IT which meant long lead times and repetition for every app,” explains Thomas Ramscheid, Senior Manager Middleware and Central Services, Lufthansa. “These were lengthy and complex processes and the result was that other parties were just not producing apps for Lufthansa’s customers.”
Within its Innovation Hub, Lufthansa wanted to innovate the travel business and put the customer back into focus. The unit is validating and facilitating digital opportunities to create the happy journey of tomorrow. Its purpose is to engage with the social community and encourage more people to develop mobile applications – a job that is outside the airline’s core business and seen as a risky investment of time and materials.
To achieve this, the airline needed to make its data more readily available to the development community and its partners.
Controlled access to data
Lufthansa decided to follow a growing trend in the aviation industry and create an Open Application Programming
Interface (API) which exposes Lufthansa data and functions to developers in the outside world via the Internet and is
also available to Lufthansa’s own service providers and departments for developing internal services. The Open API
uses standard methods like Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and also takes account of the IATA-led New Distribution
Capability (NDC) standard, based on Extensible Markup Language (XML). NDC is a collaborative initiative to define a
new messaging standard between airlines and travel agents that will enable greater transparency and choice for
“A good comparison is that in the nineties, everyone had to have a website. Now, everyone has to have an Open API,” says Ramscheid.
Although Lufthansa was to lead the project it needed a design and implementation partner so issued a request for proposal (RFP) to various vendors. It selected DXC services which already had extensive knowledge of Lufthansa’s technology landscape from having implemented its Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) middleware layer in 2007.
“We selected Hewlett Packard Enterprise [now DXC Technology] as our partner for the provision of Lufthansa Open API because, as well as being familiar with our IT infrastructure, it also had extensive functional and technical experience of solutions for the airline industry. Most importantly, it would be able to deliver the project in a very short timeframe,” adds Ramscheid.
Initially, DXC specialists helped Lufthansa prepare the business case for Open API and then developed the functional structure of the first version ready for a three-month Proof of Concept (PoC). The basic functionality was presented to the development community at a hackathon in Berlin in December 2014 and now the DXC team is developing further functionality, with more hackathons in the pipeline.
Developers and partners access data through a dedicated API portal based on TIBCO Mashery API Management. When they register, users receive a client ID and an Open Standard Authorisation (OAuth) access token. TIBCO Mashery API management software can block, throttle or filter access to services based on this token. If a registered developer is considered a trusted source, they can be given access to more data whereas unknown developers will only have access to public data.
The API site features an API Playground and API Showcase to introduce the functionality. Data already available includes information on core services such as flight schedules, arrivals, departures, flight status and aircraft seating maps. Other ancillary services such as cities, countries and airport lounge information have recently been added and there are plans to add even more data in future. Portal design enables developers to easily register their applications and create individual API plans. Resources can be tested and there is extensive interface documentation.
The site invites start-ups and digital companies to co-create innovative offers to ‘advance the way we travel’ and tempts them with a potential user base of Lufthansa’s 100 million passengers.
Improved brand visibility
The first mentionable external usage of Open API recently went live with FlightStats.com and, as more developers use
the interface, Lufthansa anticipates that a wide range of other services will follow.
“As more Lufthansa-centric apps are published it will increase our brand visibility and position us as an innovative organisation,” says Ramscheid. “We expect that this will also translate into increased earnings because these services will be able to target new markets – for example a dedicated one for travellers with special needs. Lufthansa cannot invest the time or money on these markets but there is a good business case for external developers to do this. We will support them and in the end it will increase bookings with Lufthansa.
“Having more services will improve passengers’ travel experiences and running hackathons among the development community will drive creative innovation and produce new ideas that we might not have thought of ourselves.”
A further aim is that apps will increase the use of social media, enabling customers to share their travel data, itineraries and current locations with friends and partners. Increasing the speed of innovation within Lufthansa by exposing data or processes through the API allows services to be developed for virtually any platform, with the main emphasis on mobility. It also reduces the cost of development because accessibility to data is a lot easier through a common, standard portal.
“When you are in the airline industry you work in a silo. By exposing our data in this way we can gain better visibility on what other people think,” concludes Ramscheid. “That will increase the speed of innovation which is good news for both Lufthansa and its customers.”
*This success story was originally written by HPE Enterprise Services, which is now a part of DXC Technology as of April 2017.