Flight of Revenue
Along with its regional carriers American Eagle and American
Connection, American Airlines serves more than 250 cities in 41
countries with 1,100 airplanes and about 4,400 daily flights. The
airline processes about 125 million transportation documents on an
With the amount of data created by all these ticket documents, American
Airlines needed a more efficient system that would help ensure proper
amounts of earned revenue on ticket sales. But because of the
complexity of the airline industry and the amount of data involved in
ticket transactions, accomplishing this would be no small task.
“Our business analysts have the expertise to spot fraud and other
incidents of incorrect revenue flow, but they also need a system that
makes it easy for them to quickly query and sort through large amounts
of data,” said John Hagen, senior systems analyst and project manager
for American Airlines.
Hagen was also concerned with the amount of storage such a system would
require. “Some data warehouse technologies expand the amount of
required storage by five to ten times after indexing,” Hagen said.
“This would force us to purchase as much as two additional terabytes of
storage—an expensive proposition.”
Search for a Solution
American Airlines first considered hiring outside consultants to
custom-build a data warehouse, but the cost would have likely
outweighed the expected return. Alternatively, Hagen and his staff
turned to Sybase after its technology significantly outperformed other
leading off-the-shelf data warehouses.
“Sybase IQ returned one ad hoc inquiry in minutes compared to one of
the other vendor’s software that literally took hours,” Hagen said.
“Sybase IQ was consistently 10 times faster than the other two
American Airlines integrated Sybase IQ with other data warehouse
technologies that combine to give the airline an efficient solution
that scales easily. Sun Microsystems provided server and storage
hardware while Computer Associates helped deploy its front-end,
report-generation software. American named this data warehouse RADAR
(Revenue Account Data Access Resource).
“The technology provided by Sybase, Sun and Computer Associates has
made it easy for us to keep RADAR within the same configuration over
time, and this makes things a lot simpler,” Hagen said. “All we have
had to do is add more storage and load system upgrades as our business
Sybase IQ also integrated seamlessly with American’s legacy systems.
With the RADAR system, American Airlines now has the data warehouse it
needs to detect fraudulent ticket-processing, track ticket sales
properly and ensure proper revenue is flowing into the company.
“Besides benefiting from faster inquiries, we can also conduct more
in-depth analysis,” Hagen said. “The previous system could hold only
three months of data, but Sybase IQ allows us to store about 13 months
of data, so we can run historical reports over longer time periods.”
Hagen estimates that American saved about $250,000 up-front compared to
the cost of developing a similar data warehouse using outside
consultants. But the ongoing savings have been even more dramatic. “We
originally projected that Sybase IQ would save us about $150K per
year,” Hagen said. “But over the past five years, it has saved us about
$5 million by helping us identify forms of fraud we never knew existed
and by giving us the ability to implement appropriate measures to
eliminate the causes.”
The astounding success of the program has caused the number of American
Airlines end-users to increase significantly. “The system has actually
become a best-practice standard within the company, and many more users
are now tapping into IQ Multiplex for information,” Hagen said.
“Besides the business analysts, we also have security analysts,
auditors and vice presidents taking advantage of the data Sybase IQ
The system has performed so well that American Airlines has turned down
proposals from Big 5 consulting firms to tune their business analytic
Sybase IQ has also reduced the amount of storage American Airlines
needs for the data warehouse. “The total storage required by Sybase IQ
is about 600GB,” Hagen said. “Without IQ’s compression and
column-indexing technologies, we would probably need about two
American Airlines also realizes the impact that the IQ Multiplex
solution has had on its customers. “By detecting ticketing errors and
improving cash flow, we can keep ticket prices lower,” Hagen said.
“What a technology can do for the company’s customer is the ultimate
bottom line. IQ Multiplex has clearly had a significant, positive
impact. It has turned out to be a win-win for us and our customers.”