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Software programs have become an indispensable part of our lives and we use tend to use them subconsciously while using our phone to consciously while regulating our room temperatures through a thermostat. Softwares have changed our whole perspective of individual work as well as business interaction for providing customer service in a fast and effective way. By the virtue of software programs, we can make changes under a certain domain throughout the world in a matter of seconds. As we move forward, we see technology develop further and making our lives all the more convenient and easy as it does. As a result of this, we are very much dependent on these for almost everything in our day-to-day lives. However, if these software programs fail us, it puts us in a very unexpected and troublesome situation, with no easy way out or a fast solution.
When we come to think about it, the entire airline industry is heavily dependent on software technology. From booking tickets to operating flights, airlines are dependent on using software programs for their various functions and operations. Airlines constantly monitor ticket searches, regulate seat availability and compare pricing with rival airlines companies. A team of revenue management experts is always on the lookout, make changes in the price of tickets, make offers available like discounts and low prices if booked with hotels.
How it works
The data that these specialists gain from customer web searches also gives them a range of price that customers will be willing to pay, and the lowest price during off-seasons while increasing ticket prices, even suddenly at times, based on an increase of GDP, or even an unannounced price hike in oil prices. Next, there are ways an airline uses software programs to oversee the safety of the plane while flying such as lookout for forecasts of a potentially violent storm and maintenance of the airplane itself. According to data from PwC, “In 2016, in the US alone, the cost of maintenance related delays for airlines was well over $0.5B. “Almost 1/3 delay occurs because maintenance was unplanned,” using state of the art sensor technology, specialists can now look for and identify any defects in the aircraft’s health. The sensor device now even stores data and thus experts can make comparisons to previous data and set a benchmark for optimum aircraft health and safety.
On May 27, 2017, British Airways experienced one of the worst IT failures in its history and left 75,000 stranded without being able to get on a flight and with no place to go or stay. The problem, which was initially identified as a ‘power surge’, which was caused by an ‘uncontrolled return of power’ which could not be regulated. It was stated that the ‘power surge’ eventually went on to cause significant damage to the data centers, as a result, no information about passengers or flights could be made available. This incident left many without a place to go, not to mention the inability to go places where they need to be. Following the incidents, many allegations had been thrown towards British Airways. British Airways had, recently to the event, cut jobs of several hundred of IT employee working for them.
The axed employees were mainly hired and contracted for work from India. However, according to CEO Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group IT failure was not the reason. Apart from the power surge, that British Airways claimed had blacked out data from the servers, airlines have a backup system that helps them carry out all their operations and functions. However, very, unfortunately, the British Airways’ backup system was also not working which left them no option but to cancel all flights. CEO Walsh however, later on, changed his statement, that the problem was caused due to the fault of a particular employee. An electrical engineer disconnected power to the data center. As the power to the center was going to be restored, it was done in an ‘uncontrolled fashion’, which instantly caused physical damage to the data servers, centers, and the whole power unit. The incident did not only affect the people who missed important flights but hugely affected British Airways’ company as well. Share prices of British Airways dropped by 3%, and they incurred an estimated loss of $100m – $150m.
In view of ‘The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice’, ‘judgment’ and ‘management’ can be identified as two of the reasons for the system’s failure of British Airways. The engineer in question showed a lack of judgment while disconnecting the power in the first place. Servers contain exclusive information nowadays and the server of an airline’s company is indispensable for the smooth operation of functions. With the right judgment on the engineers’ part, this problem could have been avoided in the first place. According to the CEO, he had some idea that disrupting power to the server might cause problems, but he was confounded by the fact of how much damage was caused by connecting the power back on. “Temper all technical judgments by the need to support”, the engineer really should have thought twice about his actions before carrying them out. Next, ‘management’ could have solved or even prevented this incident from happening. The power was supposed to be retained by the UPS, ‘the power control software controlling the multiple feeds into the data center didn’t get the switch between battery and backup generator supply right at the critical moment’.
To conclude, the unfortunate event caused a damage in the millions, hampered travel plans during a Bank Holiday season, with a huge waste of man-hours as the data severe affected 75,000 people, all over the world. Adherence to the SECPP, carrying out responsibilities through displaying proper judgment by the engineering before and also restoration by a UPS by the management could have avoided this incident entirely. It goes to show how well structured the SECPP is, and why it is for engineers to adhere to the guidelines provided by it.
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