How feature management helped Hawaiian Airlines respond to a global crisis.
Hawaiian Airlines Overview
3x increase in release velocity
50% reduction in time-to-value
Hawaiian Airlines, based in Honolulu, is the tenth-largest commercial airline in the US and Hawaii's largest and longest-serving airline, offering non-stop service to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland and international destinations, in addition to flights connecting the Hawaiian Islands. The ultimate purpose of Hawaiian Airlines is to connect people with aloha.
Hawaiian Airlines Timeline
Historically, Hawaiian Airlines had agile methodologies and DevOps frameworks in place, however, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated its need for increased control of feature releases.
As global travel was brought to a halt, the airline's support team saw an unprecedented uptick in customer service requests. Wait times for phone support grew to 4 hours. At the peak, Hawaiian’s support team was receiving more than 2,500 inquiries in a single day.
Volunteers from across the company came to assist, but flight changes were challenging due to the continued unknowns caused by COVID. The marketing team created an online cancellation form, but wait times remained high as employees worked around the clock to process refunds and rebookings. Hawaiian Airlines needed a way to alleviate the burden on its support team, while resolving guests’ needs more quickly.
Before the crisis, Hawaiian had already implemented LaunchDarkly and planned an upcoming release of new web functionality behind a feature flag. Using a gradual rollout, the team planned to give 10% of guests the new functionality. Once proven to be a benefit to the user experience, the new features would be steadily released to the remainder of Hawaiian’s guests.
Hawaiian Airlines employed flag-driven development with the immediate need to make reservation changes self-service. The airline sought to automate the process of flight cancellation and rebooking through its mobile app and website.
The engineering team went to work building this functionality. The system would now confirm a guest’s eligibility with no human intervention, apply appropriate refunds and rebookings, and reduce both the potential for human error and the number of hours spent fielding requests.
The team's first flag-driven releases were a huge success:
- They greatly improved user experiences by performing a gradual rollout of web and mobile app functionality, letting guests self-serve the majority of flight changes.
- They were able to alert all guests through a homepage banner displaying the latest COVID-19 information and options for making reservation changes.
While the crisis has impacted the travel industry greatly, Hawaiian Airlines responded quickly and effectively, and now feel confident in its ability to perform rapid, safe releases that yield high guest satisfaction.