Airline industry chief concedes no Y2K guarantees

Despite fervent year 2000 preparation, a key airline industry figure has conceded he cannot guarantee the industry will not suffer Y2K related glitches.

John Watson, director general of airline consortium SITA, singled out a lack of rigorous Y2K testing in some countries around the world as the likely cause.

"My own personal view . . . is that there will be some problems," he said.

"The issue that will face us is there will be some countries in the world that will not have undertaken the same rigorous Y2K testing [as SITA]."

Formed in 1949, SITA is a consortium of global telecommunications and data network services providers that operates exclusively for an estimated membership of 650 international carriers and airline industry organisations around the world.

Watson explained while the industry has gone through "every conceivable step" to ensure its aircraft, airport and administration facilities are compliant, no one can be "100 per cent sure" something is not overlooked that may "trigger an event".

SITA itself has spent $30 million on ensuring its network and operations are compliant, with Watson predicting the company will have all customer testing completed by June 1999.

However, he said the status of aircraft Y2K compliance was a matter for the airlines themselves, but believes aircraft navigation will not be affected. "I do not know any major airline that is not taking this extremely seriously," he said.

Watson made the comments on a visit to Australia to outline the company's IT vision and announce plans to boost its global voice services.

SITA plans to spend $2 million in combined service and equipment costs to install a voice switch in Sydney by the first quarter of 1999.

SITA plans to leverage its existing data network to supply partner organisations with voice services - an evolution Watson described as "natural".

The Nortel DMS 100 switch is to be located in SITA's Sydney network centre, one of 160 worldwide and a key network hub for the Asia/Pacific region.

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