Computers are used in all aspects of our lives today, and we all carry one around with us in the form of a mobile phone. Airlines use them too and the Aer Lingus reservations computer system is called ASTRAL.
Aviation people have long mentioned in passing that ASTRAL is an older system, however I was unaware of how old until recently. Make your best guess and read on to see if you got it right.
Old Tech – But It Works
You might not know it, but the airline industry still relies on a lot of old technology on the ground. Perhaps the most obvious to passengers is the continued use of dot matrix printers at gates. These printers are more reliable for the time sensitive airline industry.
Need to print five pages? No problem, they’ll all be linked together without staples. Also, the ink runs out gradually, paper never jams and it suits the older systems that are in use. Imagine people’s ire if a flight was delayed because the printer was out of toner!
The Aer Lingus Reservations Computer
ASTRAL stands for Advanced System of Telecommunications and Reservations for Aer Lingus. As far as I am aware, no other airline uses it, though others certainly did in the past. It is a variant of IPARS, the International Passenger Airlines Reservations System.
Have you made a guess as to how old it is? Well, here’s the answer. According to this very informative article by David Kennedy who was there at the time, it went live in late 1968. Yes, that’s right, ASTRAL is celebrating its 52nd birthday this year!
Obviously the system has been upgraded over the years, but it is still a very old system. Using this means that the Irish airline does not have to pay an external supplier for their reservations, which saves money. At the same time, it makes integration with other systems a bit of a headache.
I can’t help but be struck as to how things have changed. Aer Lingus were a leader in technology use in Ireland back in the day when they introduced this brand new system. Today, they are quite the opposite, hanging onto such a legacy system.
While the Aer Lingus reservations computer system is old, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not fit for purpose. It is very reliable as I don’t know of any instances where the IT has failed. It is always online and working, and that is perhaps one reason they keep it around.
I was quite surprised to find out it was 52 years old though. I figured perhaps it was an early 1980s system, or something like that. How wrong was I! There’s another article from Techarchives here that may be of interest to those into the Irish airline’s computer systems.
Did you know the Aer Lingus reservations computer system arrived in the 1960s? Ever used it? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.