Opening the World for Customers
Flight Centre has grown from its humble beginnings operating a double-decker bus in Spain to becoming a publicly listed company offering travel retail and wholesale services, as well as hotel management. In an industry where competition is fierce, and margins are often thin, the ability to get airfares and package hotels at a good price is critical for business continuity.
Today, Flight Centre’s systems span multiple continents, connecting with massive databases that contain millions of data points about airlines, airports, hotels, and their affiliated partners. To succeed, Flight Centre consultants (also known as “agents”) must be able to quickly pull this information into one central place so they can give clients precisely what they need when they need it—often while prospects are sitting at their side.
Travel Comes Back in a Big Way
Flight Centre was doing well before 2020 but suffered greatly during the pandemic. A significant drop in travel demand during the pandemic forced the company to downsize its operations. Ninety-five percent of Flight Centre’s revenue disappeared, and the company had to reduce its workforce significantly. About 600 of its stores were closed in Australia alone.
Customer demand has returned in a big way now that travel restrictions have eased, and people are looking for new adventures. But staff sizes at Flight Centre remain smaller than before, which has placed a greater emphasis on technology for consultants helping travelers find their next trip away.
The average employee also has higher expectations of workplace technology than they did two or three years ago. Employees now expect access to any application they need wherever they are working, access to relevant information when requested (e.g., pricing), and fast response times when interacting with colleagues or clients.
“We have customers nowadays who can sit and counter shop the agent in real-time on their mobile phone using our competitors’ websites,” said Chris Locke, CIO at Flight Centre. “So we need to be in a position where we can have low latency networks and deliver high-performing applications because our consultants need to be able to answer questions quickly.”
“So we need to be in a position where we can have low latency networks and deliver high-performing applications because our consultants need to be able to answer questions quickly.”
Chief Information Officer
Meeting the Customer Demand Through Technology
Technology has become a vital part of the way Flight Centre operates. The company no longer sells anything that does not involve technology in some way, meaning its IT systems must be up 100% of the time.
During the pandemic, Flight Centre’s IT business also became global.
“Pre-pandemic, we were a federated business and ran each of our IT departments separately,” said Locke. “But now, we’re running a business 24/7 around the globe.”
That said, the IT team has to do more with less. Its size has been reduced by more than half. And it operates on a budget that’s 37% less than before. The company has also shifted to using SaaS (Software as a Service), so it has become necessary for Flight Centre to keep vendors honest and make strategic vendor decisions about those that are not performing as expected.
“It’s no longer just about the service being available,” said Locke. “It has got to perform within a relevant timeframe—that’s important for the consultant.”
Post-pandemic, the business is back to growth with strong customer demand for travel. As a result, each travel consultant’s availability is critical as an outage could damage Flight Centre’s reputation and directly translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue. More so when it affects an entire service region.
Resolving Problems in Real-time
Before the pandemic, Flight Centre used ThousandEyes to triage when problems arose. Now that the company is growing again, it has transitioned to using ThousandEyes as a visibility platform for infrastructure issues as well as those impacting its SaaS and cloud providers.
“We have users spread all over the world, and we need to be able to work out very quickly whether the network is causing the issue or whether it’s the app itself,” said Locke. “ThousandEyes really came to the table and delivered for us.”
In the past, it took at least 36 hours to complete a computer test because one person, say in America, had to wait for another person, say in Australia, to be awake to run the tests and collect results. Or, they would set up a remote machine and run the process, but that took days to weeks to complete. Now, Flight Centre can run all the tests it needs to effectively and immediately identify and mitigate any network problems.
In many cases, issues that once took days or weeks to resolve can now be handled within hours or minutes.
100% Uptime. Speedy MTTR. Satisfied Customers.
With performance now a crucial part of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), ThousandEyes gives Flight Centre the ability to ensure that its systems are up and running. The company benefits from systems that are available 100% of the time and can better hold its partners accountable for their uptime promises.
“With ThousandEyes, we can actually hold our vendors to account,” said Locke. “And the metrics that go into those contracts are far more tangible than they used to be.”
Using ThousandEyes, Flight Centre can escalate real-time triage efforts to teams working across multiple time zones until a resolution is identified. This visibility and flexibility empower the company’s global IT team to deliver 24/7 system availability and troubleshoot and optimize digital experiences from any location.
“We don’t need to wait for people to be awake to be able to do testing nowadays,” said Locke. “We can do that testing overnight and remotely, which is fantastic for the team.”
As a result, the company’s mean time to resolution (MTTR) has significantly dropped. In many cases, issues that once took days or weeks to resolve can now be handled within hours or minutes.
There is no question that Flight Centre has come a long way since its time of crisis and now enjoys robust demand for travel services. As it continues to build on its momentum, the company will use real-time visibility into its network to deliver better customer service, solve problems faster, and boost its bottom line—all with the help of ThousandEyes.
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