Hong Kong Airlines

Akamai helped Hong Kong Airlines speed up their website’s response time significantly for its visitors from all over the world, while managing bots and scrapers, achieving annual savings of RMB 40 million

“It has been well established that Akamai is the best business partner in the aviation industry. Akamai has not only improved the response time of our website and mobile application by over 150%, but also resolved a series of issues caused by web bots and scrapers successfully, representing a savings of RMB 40 million in infrastructure expenses. Ultimately, it has allowed our system to stay online at all times to provide the best service we can for our customers, which has contributed to our continued business growth.”

Xiusheng Wei , Senior Software Engineer , Hong Kong Airlines

The Situation

Hong Kong Airlines Ltd. began providing civil aviation services in 2006 and has one of the youngest passenger fleets, with its aircraft boasting an average age of about five years. Its 34 planes use Hong Kong International Airport as a hub to provide services to a network of nearly 40 destination cities across mainland China, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific region, including Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, Bali, and Okinawa.

The Challenge

As a young airline, Hong Kong Airlines is in its “Golden Days,” enjoying strong business growth. Since its establishment, the young company has grown its network all over the world. Its network has covered first-tier destinations such as Singapore, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, as well as world-renowned tourist destinations such as the Maldives, Saipan, and the Gold Coast. The mission of Hong Kong Airlines is to provide the world’s best “energetic, flexible, and reliable” flying experience to its customers. Hong Kong Airlines is committed to using digital technologies — from designing to delivering of all its services throughout all phases of the customer experience, so that customers from all over the world can experience its consistent, affordable, digitalized quality services.

However, the customer experience is compromised in some destinations like Southeast Asian countries, due to unbalanced development of local Internet infrastructure and limited Internet accessibility. Though Hong Kong Airlines has expanded its network to many areas, the exceptional user experience has not been fully achieved in all geographic locations, which ultimately has a negative impact on the airline’s business development efforts. Hong Kong Airlines considered the option of establishing its own data center and dedicated servers in underdeveloped areas to tackle performance issues. However, such an option is extremely capital intensive, not to mention the long lead time. The other concern is that about half of all Internet traffic comes from bots, which could deplete resources of the company. The bad bots also present a potential security risk.

The Goal

Hong Kong Airlines needed to satisfy three requirements to reach its goals:

  • Ensure a consistent user experience on their website and mobile application anywhere in the world: Hong Kong Airlines needed to adopt an adaptive solution that could ensure a quality user experience for its customers anywhere in the world, on any devices, with different Internet connection qualities across different geographic locations, and ultimately contribute to the development of more business.
  • Ensure stable and reliable system performance at peak traffic hours without additional investment in infrastructure: Hong Kong Airlines regularly runs promotions that are expected to generate large bursts of web traffic. The company wanted a highly scalable, fault-tolerant, load-balancing solution that ensured high performance and availability under any peak demands without additional investments in its existing network infrastructure.
  • Eliminate potential security risks and reduce the cost of IT system: Hong Kong Airlines needed a powerful cloud-based solution to monitor sites on a real-time basis to fend off ever-changing, different forms of Internet attacks — and to manage web bots and scrapers, which pose a threat to the IT infrastructure and the company’s core business. All of these efforts could serve to reduce the stress on system operation and maintenance, and further optimize data center resources.

Why Akamai

Professional service is highly recognized throughout the airline industry
Akamai has successfully helped many world- renowned airlines — including Eva Air from Taiwan and Cathay Pacific Airways from Hong Kong — improve performance and beef up the security level of their mobile apps and websites at different destinations, which has in turn increased the transaction volume significantly. “Before we formally contacted Akamai, we had already done our homework and recognized that Akamai is one of the leading solution providers for many major global airlines. The fact that those airlines that we have benchmarked ourselves against are all using Akamai products and services with no exception is a solid piece of evidence to support our decision-making process,” said Xiusheng Wei, senior software engineer in the IT department of Hong Kong Airlines. During the preliminary technology assessment phase, Akamai’s Customer Care team not only performed comprehensive data analyses on the performance level and availability of the existing systems at Hong Kong Airlines, but also mapped out a future system development path based on the company’s five-year business plan to ensure that the system can operate under optimal conditions in all areas, including providing superior user experience and managing bots and scrapers effectively.

High performance significantly contributes to higher customer loyalty and higher volume of business transactions
Under the brand positioning of “Fresh and Very Hong Kong,” Hong Kong Airlines has focused on its target customer segment, a new generation of creative and value-seeking passengers between the ages of 20 and 35. To better serve these passengers, Hong Kong Airlines has been optimizing its website and mobile application to provide a simpler and more easy-to-use service. In 2017, Hong Kong Airlines served a record 7 million passengers. Most of their passengers use the website or mobile application to book tickets, check in at the airport, or access promotion information. As a result, Hong Kong Airlines must deliver a seamless, real-time customer experience across different device types and network conditions. Akamai Web Performance Solutions helped Hong Kong Airlines deliver faster, more engaging browser experiences by leveraging machine learning technology to automatically determine performance optimizations based on real user behavior, which not only effectively mitigated the negative impact from the third-party elements, but also improved the browser speed. Finally, Hong Kong Airlines has ensured that every customer can access its website and mobile application from a variety of devices, with different Internet connection qualities, and still have an exceptional and seamless user experience. “Internet connection quality is somewhat unpredictable. Our customers also use a wide range of devices to access our website and application. All of this presents huge challenges for us to provide a good online user experience. By using Akamai intelligent solutions, we were able to quickly respond to any changes in web content, user behavior, and connection quality on a real-time basis. It is worth mentioning that Akamai’s cellular optimization helped us deliver consistent performance over uncertain cellular connections. Our customer loyalty level was improved significantly and our business also benefited from it,” said Wei.

No need to scale out existing web infrastructure to accommodate peak traffic periods
Hong Kong Airlines has been committed to a creative, innovative marketing approach to showcase its brand culture and attract customers. As such, there has been online marketing promotions on a regular basis, which attracts a large number of visitors to its website in short time periods. Achieving high availability of its website and application, and optimal online response times, involves a variety of site implementation strategies — including geographically diverse data centers and redundant network architectures and components. Therefore, it would be challenging for the company’s in-house infrastructure alone to handle peak traffic periods. Akamai Web Performance Solutions monitor site availability through widely deployed points of presence to capture Internet traffic conditions relative to Hong Kong Airlines’ data center. Based on these conditions, Hong Kong Airlines-specific policy rules are evaluated against real-time Internet traffic conditions to direct traffic to the closest data center or to a high-performance data center. “When we run a big promotion, we must guarantee zero downtime and maintain the best system response time to help increase transaction volume. To do so, however, requires the purchase of a large amount of expensive and sophisticated hardware. Akamai Web Performance Solutions helped us solve this dilemma. It can act as a scalable extension to the infrastructure of our internal web center and make sure that our sites can function well during peak traffic periods,” said Wei.

Efficient bot management reduces resource consumption and waste
Hong Kong Airlines has always valued the privacy of its online users. However, web bots and scrapers consume a large amount of web traffic, adding unnecessary strain to the web infrastructure, and bad bots also scrape web pages or participate in DDoS attacks, which poses a threat to the company’s sensitive data, pricing information, and user information. With visibility into 15-30% of daily global web traffic, the Akamai Intelligent Platform™ is capable of identifying, categorizing, managing, and reporting on more than 1,200 bots. Therefore, after using Akamai Cloud Security Solutions, Hong Kong Airlines not only understood who is coming to its website and what they are trying to do, but also gained the flexibility to create categories of bots and assign different management policies based on the desired interaction with each bot or bot category. “Web bots and scrapers have once been one of the biggest obstacles for our business growth. Akamai Cloud Security Solutions can offer some distinctive benefits, which include maintaining our competitive advantage by keeping the pricing data and other confidential content materials safe, reducing our financial risk by protecting our website against credential abuse and other forms of web fraud, and last but not least, significantly reducing the IT cost of managing bots and scrapers internally,” said Wei.

About Hong Kong Airlines

Established in 2006, Hong Kong Airlines is a Hong Kong-based full-service airline with a growing network servicing nearly 40 major destinations. It has interline agreements with 78 partners and code-sharing agreements with 18 airlines. The airline is committed to providing customers with unique experiences that showcase the company’s roots and heritage in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Airlines’ relentless pursuit for excellence is highly regarded in the industry.

In 2011, Hong Kong Airlines was awarded a 4-star rating and also won an award for making the most outstanding progress by Skytrax, an internationally renowned airline rating agency. In 2015, it was awarded Asia’s Leading Inflight Service by WTA. It was the only Hong Kong-based airline to win the award of Fast Travel Gold Certificate from International Air Transport Association (IATA). In addition, Hong Kong Airlines is highly acclaimed for its on-time performance. It has been ranked by the world-renowned air travel intelligence company OAG as Asia’s most punctual airline, and the second globally in 2017. As Hong Kong Airlines transformed itself from a regional carrier to a global player, it has continued to embrace its Hong Kong heritage, which is deeply rooted in its corporate culture. The logo of Hong Kong Airlines is composed of the five-petal Hong Kong Orchid Tree (the designated city flower of Hong Kong) and a part of the logo from its parent company Hainan Airlines (a Garuda, the mythological Chinese bird crowned with jewels). This logo that bears the unmistakable branding signature of Hong Kong is carried by all its fleet, indicating its corporate relationship with Hainan Airlines. For more information, please visit the official website at http://www.hongkongairlines.com