A popular interpretation of the Chinese word for crisis, “Weiji,” is a combination of danger and opportunity.  Politicians from John F. Kennedy, who experienced a nuclear missile crisis, to Al Gore in his description of global climate change have used this meme to help communicate the situation and encourage the right actions.  However, most language scholars will point out that this is an optimistic interpretation of Weiji, particular for the second character in the word.

Wei does mean “danger” or “precarious,” but Ji is just one part of the word Jihui which means “a critical point of change”.  The implication is that it depends on what you do in a dangerous situation that can make it an opportunity or a disaster.  Airlines and their governments are directly facing this critical point at a level and scope that has not been seen before.  What the airlines do to rebuild their strength and resiliency with support from their governments will determine their future and the future of the air travel industry.

In previous major downturns, the eventual winners took the opportunity to rethink their business model, their operations and their critical infrastructure.  In the 2000-2001 timeframe, IT systems were transitioned from 1960s technology (remember the 8-bit green screens?) to client server applications with desktop computers.  Since then, layers of graphic user interfaces and security firewalls have made this increasingly complex and expensive to maintain.  In-house infrastructure and IT groups are now major cost centers.

The opportunity today is to leverage commercial cloud infrastructure (AWS, Azure, Alibaba, etc.) for their flexibility, scalability, high level of security and lower costs compared to in-house infrastructure and IT groups.  Cloud native applications that are much faster to implement (just days instead of months for legacy applications) are becoming available at much lower cost.  Modern software is also much easier to use and has regular free upgrades (think Office 365 compared to Windows 95 Office).  The upgrades are included in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) fee.  You are not stuck with the package you bought with its limitations nor are you expected to pay for a major new upgrade every 3-5 years.  The software evolves as your needs change with new features and tools with each free upgrade.  You see your requests turn into production software capabilities in a month or two instead of years and years.

Zulu was designed from the beginning as a cloud-native application for airline scheduling, slots, publications and analytics.  We are introducing gating, tail assignment, fleet management and other optimization tools into the platform.  If this is a part of the rethinking and reengineering you are considering to set up your airline for future success, we welcome your call.