Private jet service develops IT system to lower costs

Sentient Jet, a private charter-flight provider, has developed a proprietary system called the Optimizer that it expects will lower costs and thereby enable it to attract more corporate users to its premium air travel service.

Norwood, Mass.-based Sentient is using Microsoft Corp.'s .Net Web services technology for the project. Sentient's Optimizer enables customer service representatives to match customer flight requirements with aircraft availability in real time and then combine customer flights to maximize profit margins.

"It truly has business value and offers immediate return on investment," said Tolga Erdogus, Sentient's vice president of engineering.

During a demonstration of the proprietary, patent-pending software for Computerworld, Erdogus showed how the application queries multiple travel industry flight availability databases, including the Air Charter Guide and a real-time data feed from the Federal Aviation Administration, and produces a color-coded Gantt project-management chart. The chart shows which flights can be combined and turned into revenue-generating excursions. The company guarantees its clients a five-hour turnaround time for identifying an available flight.

"Commercial airlines use massive systems for overnight batch processing to conduct schedule optimization," said Erdogus. "But we've generated a technology that does near-real-time optimization, on the order of 15 minutes." The company is also working on dynamic pricing and dynamic capacity allocation submodules, Erdogus said.

In addition to himself, Erdogus' development team consists of five developers, a database administrator, a systems administrator, a help desk administrator and a consultant from MIT. The team wrote more than 150,000 lines of code using Ilog Inc.'s OPL Studio and CPLEX for schedule optimization. In addition, the developers used Borland Software Corp.'s Delphi 8 .Net Field Test Program and Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net "Whidbey" preview release for Web development. SQL Server 2000 is used for the back-end databases.

Sentient CEO Mark Stone credited the IT development work of Erdogus' engineering team with enabling the company to avoid raising prices more than once during the past four years. "Our ability to maintain prices while many other companies are raising them is driven by exactly these kinds of capabilities," Stone said.

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