Why APIs are the Future of Air New Zealand

13 Apr 2017 Digital, Our People, Software Engineering

Having been plugged into the world of services and integration for several years now, I find the current trends of API development to be really refreshing. Rather than a focus on frameworks and over-formalization, the focus is on simplicity and ease of use. APIs are also no longer the domain of internet-only companies; it is now the responsibility of every organisation that offers valuable services to expose those capabilities via a secure and well-structured API. This leads to more innovation, more flexibility, and happier customers.

This is especially true in the airline industry. Travel is a universal experience, and represents a partnership between a number of different players, the airline being one of the biggest. Being successful in this environment means being agile and being open, and Air New Zealand is in a great position to do exactly this. Our Airpoints programme is one of the largest of its kind, with a partner network throughout New Zealand. Our mobile app continues to offer travel support to over one million users worldwide. Just last month we launched a chatbot named Oscar with a goal to teach him to be a versatile and valuable travel assistant. An open and comprehensive API ecosystem allows us (and others) to innovate on top of these capabilities to realise the future of New Zealand travel.

I've been happy to find that Air New Zealand is, at its core, a digital company with a focus on innovation and an ability to move surprisingly fast to meet the needs of an emerging market of developers and partners that are anxious to work with us. We believe in using the best technology for the job. We automate every aspect of test and deployment, leverage the latest RESTful services frameworks, and release fast and often. This is smart because it not only gets us to market faster, but it ensures that our people are up on the latest stuff and ready to evaluate and adopt when a useful new technology comes along.

The goal is to have partners, internal developers, and outside developers all using the same platform to book flights, quote fares, receive alerts and notifications, and take advantage of any of the core capabilities that Air New Zealand offers. There are a few ways in which we're pushing to be a leader in this space:

  • We are taking a product-based approach to APIs, and that means more than just roadmaps and backlogs. It means taking a detailed look at our target audience of developers and partners and building a framework that makes sense for them
  • We follow a contract-first development approach, which helps us take a bit of a broader approach to our APIs and ensures that service interfaces will be streamlined and customer-centric instead of system-centric. The goal is to have our capabilities laid out in a straightforward way, working hard to avoid the complexity that plagues enterprise APIs
  • We have a cloud-first strategy for all new solutions, and follow a container-based microservices model to help us scale linearly and dynamically
  • We are building an open-first culture within our development teams, meaning that new capabilities are considered first with a view toward how anyone could use them. We would like to make the same services that we use available to our partners and our customers, and we are working to not only bring new APIs to the marketplace, but also to refactor our current capabilities in an open way.

I will know that we've been successful when our developers are happy, our stuff works great, and our technical debt is a thing of the past. It's a journey, to be sure. We are accelerating our pace to get there as fast as we can, and growing one of the most dynamic software development teams in New Zealand. If you're interested in helping us out, let me know.

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Joey Faust is the Product Manager, Customer Shared Services at Air New Zealand, working on omni-channel services and APIs. Learn more about our Digital career opportunities.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn; republished with permission.

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