The Jet Age (1958 - Today)

Computer Technology

Computers have become crucial to the airline industry. They are used to book tickets, plan flights, schedule aircraft and crew, oversee maintenance, and set fares.

From ticket reservations to aircraft design and manufacture, computers have helped airline operations become more efficient and flexible. The rise of personal computers and the Internet has given passengers complete control over booking their own flights and seat selections. The complex and fluid airfare system that computers have made possible enables savvy travelers to find low fares on many routes.

Using the Internet, passengers can search for find the best fare or flight, choose seats, make reservations, pay for the ticket, and print receipts and boarding passes.

Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacture (CAD/CAM) have greatly reduced the cost of producing aircraft. Computers produce accurate drawings and can alert designers to possible conflicts before a design is produced. They can also manufacture parts more precisely and faster than humans. Parts for the 747-400 (shown here) are made by CAD/CAM. The Boeing 777 was the first airliner completely designed on computer.

Code Sharing
Sunil Gupta

Computer reservation systems have led to code sharing-agreements between airlines that allow travelers to fly on more than one carrier on a single ticket. Code sharing increases and optimizes the flow of passenger through an airline's network. A major carrier may have code sharing agreements with regional, commuter, and foreign airlines.

SABRE
Smithsonian, National Museum of American History

In the late 1950s, American Airlines pioneered the use of a computer reservation system, and in 1963 American installed its Semi-Automated Business Environment, or SABRE. Other airlines followed American's lead and developed their own computer reservation systems.