Virgin Atlantic Airways is rolling out a new global data communications system to link up all its offices around the world.
The UK's second largest long-haul airline has spent £4.1m on a virtual private network (VPN) to connect all of Virgin's offices in 39 locations across the globe.
By linking all airline sales, reservations, cargo and internal business applications, Virgin said it will be able to bridge the information and communications barriers that previously existed within the company.
Virgin forecasts that that system, which will also be used at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, as well as the company's head office in Crawley, will make the roll-out of new business applications quicker.
By switching to an IP-VPN, the airline can introduce new web-based systems across the world, which can then be implemented regionally by IT managers. Virgin predicted that this will bring about considerable savings by reducing heavy service maintenance and regional software deployment costs.
Simon Fox, director of information technology at Virgin Atlantic Airways, said: "More and more IT services will be provided from a single internet point, which can then be adapted and implemented in local regions.
"The system will strengthen our communications backbone and allow us to easily introduce additional new functions.
"Sales and reservations systems will be the biggest challenge to migrate. We need to ensure constant availability and reliability of these mission-critical functions."
The IP-VPN will do away with many of the old green-screen legacy computer systems that still run in many airports around the world. The new interoperable standards-based architecture should also enable Virgin to offer faster and more personalised passenger services.
The system, designed and implemented by airline network and communications specialist SITA, is expected to be fully deployed by the end of 2004.
Jonathan Collard, SITA's group director of business development, said: "Virgin has aggressive expansion plans and this communications network provides them with an infrastructure in line with their business systems strategy."
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