Southwest Moves to Modernize Infrastructure


Southwest Airlines | Image by F Armstrong Photography/Shutterstock

Southwest Airlines will be migrating its digital infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon.com.

According to a news release by the e-commerce giant on March 8, AWS will be Southwest’s “preferred cloud provider” as the airline aims to realize its “long-term plan to enhance the passenger journey, optimize operations, and efficiently invest in information technology (IT) infrastructure.”

The airline will utilize AWS servers to power critical software tasks, as reported by The Dallas Morning News, including fare searches and crew scheduling.

As Lauren Woods, Southwest’s vice president of technology and chief information officer, told the DMN, Southwest already uses AWS for gate management and departure control programs. In time, it will also move additional “critical-for-operations and future required-to-fly applications” to the cloud.

This is one of a series of changes implemented by Southwest since its massive meltdown in December.

As The Dallas Express reported, a total of 16,700 flights were canceled between December 21 and December 31 due to a computer system failure, costing the company at least $1.15 billion and putting it in the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Southwest executives appeared before the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in February, per The Dallas Express, where they apologized for the disruptions, promised to make technological updates, and pushed back when questioned over offering affected passengers frequent-flier points as compensation instead of cash.

Southwest Airlines is currently under investigation by the DOT to determine whether its scheduling practices violated regulations prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices, per the DMN. The airline is anticipating the results of a report it commissioned from consultant Oliver Wyman, which aims to identify the cause of the scheduling mishap.

In the months following the incident, Woods was named the new vice president of technology and chief information officer to lead a $1.3 billion upgrade to Southwest’s tech infrastructure.

The new multiyear deal with Amazon — the financial terms of which were not disclosed — is thus a part of this upgrade.

AWS is expected to offer Southwest greater reliability, scalability, and cost-effectiveness than its existing infrastructure.

According to Amazon’s news release, Southwest will use its cloud data warehouse known as Amazon Redshift to deliver real-time and predictive data, its Amazon SageMaker to make a self-service machine learning platform to leverage this data, and its AWS Lambda and Amazon Simple Storage Service to create a secure system for gathering and storing this data.

Despite the partnership with AWS, Southwest plans to maintain its own data center, Woods told the DMN, in part to keep the option open to potentially run some of the applications from its wide range of software vendors.

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