Business continuity in the 21st century normally means that organisations try not to disrupt customer service. Sometimes the consequences of hiding complex IT upgrades from customers means that in the background engineers are doing something not unlike changing an aircraft engine mid-flight.
Stealthy changes take time. Witness the slowly, slowly incremental approach taken with the M1/Westlink improvements in Belfast, where a chess game of lane closures is being played out over two or so years that prevent the motorway (hardly) ever being closed, but add a lot of time to the end date.
But it’ll be no surprise that Ryanair haven’t taken this approach to migrating to a new airline reservation system this weekend. They’re taking down most of the aspects of their website and call centre for the weekend.
A total outage. No new bookings. No changes to bookings. No online check-in.
As their website notice explains:
From 22:00 hrs (GMT) on the 22nd February until 23:00hrs (GMT) on the 25th February 2008, the Ryanair booking website and call centre applications will be unavailable in order to transition to a complete new reservation system ...
All flights between 22:00 hrs on the 22nd February until 23:00hrs on the 25th February 2008 will operate as normal. However flight date/name/route changes on these days cannot be made from 0100hrs (GMT) on the 22 February 2008 on Ryanair.com, at a Ryanair call centre or at the airport.
New Bookings cannot be made on Ryanair.com or via a Ryanair call centre between 22:00hrs on the 22nd February until 23:00hrs on the 25th February 2008
Flight Changes (date/route/name) cannot be made on Ryanair.com or via a Ryanair call centre between 22:00hrs on the 22nd February until 23:00hrs on the 25th February 2008 .
Review Existing Booking - passengers will not be able to review their existing booking details on Ryanair.com or via a Ryanair call centre between 22:00hrs on the 22nd February until 23:00hrs on the 25th February 2008.
Online Check-in - passengers will not be able to check-in online between 01:00hrs on the 22nd February until 23:00hrs on the 25th February 2008. Passengers traveling [sic] on the 22/23/24/25 February who are unable to check-in online can check-in at the airport and will not be charged the airport check-in fee ...
The Ryanair reservation centre will be closed from Friday 22nd Feb from 1800 GMT and will reopen on Monday 25th Feb at the normal opening hours ...
Rather than eek out the changes over a period of weeks or months, they’ve gone for the big bang approach, complete with three day outage.
Speculation - supported by the Office of Fair Trading - is that the timing of the upgrade is linked to Ryanair’s continued failure to meet a deadline to list fares inclusive of all fixed non-optional costs (including taxes) on its website.
Eleven of the thirteen airlines ordered to amend their online booking systems met the original deadline, while two (Aer Lingus and Ryanair) asked for extra time. Aer Lingus met their new deadline, but Ryanair didn’t.
The urgency to make the switch to the new reservation system - and the tolerance of substantial website and call centre downtime - seems to be a necessary evil to avoid further measures or even fines being levied by the OFT.
Surprisingly The Register hasn’t had anything to say on the matter!