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Our team embarked on a journey with Southwest Airlines (SWA) to revamp their 25-year-old operational systems, specifically enhancing OpsSuite to manage "irregular operations" (IROPs) and forecast potential delays. This collaboration aimed at reshaping how operators leverage real-time contextual information to mitigate delays.

[Image: A comparative image showcasing the old system and a glimpse of the new OpsSuite interface.]

Overcoming Legacy Shackles by Transforming Southwest's Operations

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Project summary

TLDR;

01

Internal Team

UX Designers · UX Managers · Product Managers · Tech Managers · Business Directors 

02

Date

2019 - 2020

03

Role

Researcher · UI Design · Copywriting · Interviewer

04

Key Contributions

  • Collaborate with business leaders for prioritization of backlog items and estimates of UX time and needs

  • Conducted contextual research and workshopped with Superintendents of Dispatch (SODs) to highlight a data point hierarchy and translate key features

The core team

DISCOVERY

Engagement with Southwest's Superintendent of Dispatch (SOD) team and stakeholders unveiled the operational resilience despite existing technological hurdles.

Ground-level interactions with users in InFlight and FlightOps formed the foundation of our data assimilation, unveiling the reality of operational flow and gathering invaluable feedback.

Complexity 

An aging program not aligning with current use, resulting in elaborate, expert-only workarounds.

Performance 

The outdated system is slow, unstable, and often crashes, demanding time-consuming manual solutions from users.

Manual Process

Excessive reliance on manual entries and expert decision-making, where algorithms could have simplified operations.

 

Inflexibility

The system's limitations lead to manual planning, inducing inefficiencies and failing to utilize optimization tools effectively.

[Image: Photos of interactions with the SOD team and stakeholders, perhaps in a workshop or during interviews.]

[Image: Photos from the field - interacting with and observing users.]

Affinity mapping & understanding painpoints

Our journey commenced with on-ground interactions with users in InFlight and FlightOps. Observing their operational flow and gathering real-time feedback formed the cornerstone of our data assimilation.

  • Analysis

  • Automate processes

  • Communication

  • Comparisons

  • Customization

  • File Management / Retrieval

  • Headcount

  • Performance

  • Technology

  • Training

Opportunities index

[Image: Images of the affinity mapping process and the final outcome.]

Stakeholder Engagement

IMPACT

Key features like Data Visibility, Data Sorting, and Focused Alerts were introduced to minimize operational hiccups. Interactive workshops with stakeholders helped prioritize and roadmap these innovations, aligning with SWA’s ambitious outlook towards operational excellence.

Data Visibility and Hierarchy

Minimized visual noise by focusing on relevant data at each process step.

 

Data Sorting

Enabled relevant data display, easing the transition from the old data dump format to a trustable, refined UI.

 

Focused Alerts 

The introduction of live data and visual alert hierarchy enhanced operational confidence and efficiency.

[Images of new features with before-after comparisons and snapshots from the workshop.]

DESIGN INNOVATIONS

The enriched information architecture of OpsSuite, reflected in an intuitive UI and streamlined operations, aligned with Southwest’s ambition for operational excellence, marking a significant stride in marrying empathetic UX practices with technological modernization in the airline industry.

[Image: Refined UI screenshot of the OpsSuite and a photo from the final presentation to the stakeholders.]

OUTCOME

Overcoming Obstacles

Team Changes

Managed frequent reshuffling with robust documentation and rapid ramp-ups.

 

Old Habits 

Ensured modernization didn’t disrupt operational comfort through blended design and engineering strategies.

 

Contract Issues 

Navigated complex requests and contractual constraints with meticulous management.

REFLECTION

Rethinking air & transport operations software

Southwest Airlines

2020

Airline transportation operations

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Creating an on-demand delivery service app

7-Eleven

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App design & delivery services

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Strength that speaks for itself

BENEFITS

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Availability

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Efficiency

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Trust

What my past mentors are saying

TESTIMONIALS

Leah Yurfset

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Roy Gold

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Nela Yliuay

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Nela Yliuay

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Nela Yliuay

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