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Imaging puts end to financial guessing game.

Imaging Puts End To Financial Guessing Game Northwest Airlines' new multimillion-dollar passenger revenue accounting system should pay for itself in six months as the airline can stop guessing at how much money it is taking in.

Northwest can now correctly determine ticket pricing, agent commissions, taxes, and interline transfers--money transferred from the airline that sold the ticket to the airline on which the passenger actually flew.

Each year Northwest processes 600 million assorted transactions, and is now managing this vast paper load with image processing.

Its new FileNet system uses scanners to input digitize images of documents. These images are stored on optical disks capable of holding 50,000 images each, and retrieved via powerful software for displays on computer screens on a network.

Northwest, the nation's fourth largest airline, can create, store, and retrieve an electronic picture or image of every ticket sold or used.

Operators on the Northwest network retrieve the images, read the information on the coupon, and compare it to other sales and use records to determine how much money the ticket is worth. Ticket information inaccuracies, and the resulting loss of revenue, are now avoided.

"Every major airline needs to store, retrieve, and account for ticket information accurately," says Northwest's Doug Schwinn. "With tremendous pressures to make operations more efficient, this kind of image-based accounting will become an airline industry standard. The old way just isn't good enough anymore."

Previously, Northwest had no choice but to rely on sophisticated statistical techniques to determine revenues. The daily paper load prevented comprehensive manual sorting and handling. The 260,000 documents a day, daily price changes, the need to track sales with some 60,000 agents worldwide, and interline transfers added up to a paper handling nightmare.

As a result Northwest, like other airlines, would sample 5% of tickets and make all the necessary revenue adjustments to determine an average revenue per mile flown. They then multiply that figure by the total number of miles flown to determine revenues.

With its new imaging system, ticket revenue verification takes just seconds. Audit coupon (what the travel agent turns in) and flight coupon (what the passenger turns in at the gate) images are scanned into the system and stored on optical disks.

Northwest operators from their network of more than 400 Sun workstations can request ticket images and other information. Imaging software directs the request to the proper disk library, and the disk is inserted into a drive which reads the image and sends it over the network to the opertor's screen within seconds.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on American Airlines Aadvantage frequent flyer program; Northwest Airlines' FileNet passenger accounting system
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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