Big data is reshaping business. This is particularly the case in the airline industry, where on numerous occasions a big data case study has proven the industry is evolving.
However, analyzing vast swathes of data is not new for the sector. For instance, engine manufacturers have utilized trend monitoring and operating parameters for decades. This meticulous approach to performance has translated into huge savings for airlines, providing them with up-to-the-minute operational data. Moreover, a Boeing 787 creates half a terabyte of data on every flight. Combined with weather forecasts, customer service data, ticketing information, and airport communications, this vast ocean of data offers a wealth of business intelligence.
However, many airlines are not taking full advantage of the data they have. With an enormous reservoir of data at their disposal, big data technology can transform the way airlines do business. By prioritizing data collection and analysis, even small airlines can respond to customer demands and market trends with precision and agility. So how are major airlines benefiting from big data? Here, we introduce how data can enhance airline operations and discuss five inspiring case studies.
The key benefits of leveraging big data analytics
Leveraging insights into big data can give airlines a huge advantage over competitors. From booking, check in, boarding, and even during the flight, airlines can learn a huge amount about their client base. Along with loyalty programs, airlines arguably generate more customer data than any other industry. Within this information lies enormous quantities of valuable intelligence that impacts operations, efficiency, and service.
1. Smarter maintenance
Big data helps airlines to better maintain their aircraft. Take fuel for example; fuel accounts for 17% of all airline operating costs, making it the most significant overhead after labor. Therefore, fuel efficiency is a critical metric. With big data, airlines can identify new efficiencies. Greater computational power has allowed airlines to gather and process huge volumes of data that enable them to analyze fuel consumption on a per-trip basis. For instance, Southwest Airlines collects data from sensors embedded in aircraft that measure wind speed, temperature, and plane weight alongside fuel consumption.
However, these advantages do not end at fuel efficiency. For example, Boeing analyzes 2 million conditions daily across 4,000 aircraft as a part of its Airplane Health Management system. This intelligence – which includes mechanical analysis, in-flight metrics, and shop findings – helps Boeing to plan maintenance and distribution. To illustrate, this system can predict failures and facilitate preemptive action. In practice, this approach saves the company $300,00 annually in service delays and repair costs.
2. Safer flights
By capturing flight incident data, regulators can improve safety across the aviation industry. Recently, the European Aviation Safety Agency launched the Data4Safety program, which collects and analyzes in-flight telemetry data, air traffic control information, and weather forecasts to detect risk. The program will allow regulators to determine safety risks and advise stakeholders. By combining big data analytics and computational power, this program aims to strengthen weak links in the aviation chain.
3. Improve service
While there are significant operational gains, big data can also help airlines to enhance customer service. Instead of simply identifying successful products, airlines can use big data to drill down into customers’ buying habits. By analyzing variables and aggregating historic information, airlines can predict and model customer behavior to generate personalized offers. This smart approach not only drives ticket sales, it also enhances opportunities for upselling, such as baggage fees and onboard refreshments.
Big data in aviation: 5 case studies
These scenarios demonstrate how airlines can leverage technology and data to improve operational performance. Now, big data is propelling airlines towards a new, more innovative future. Below, we detail five case studies that show how major players in the industry are using big data to the fullest advantage.
1. Encourage loyalty: United Airlines
Tailor-made offers will always appeal to the customer, thus encouraging loyalty. Airlines are in the fortunate position of being able to learn an enormous amount about their client base from data. Even a single booking contains data which can teach an airline a huge amount about its customers. For instance, United Airlines use their “collect, detect, act” protocol to analyze over 150 variables in each customer profile. These analyses measure everything from previous purchases to customer preferences in order to generate a tailor-made offer. The collect, detect, act initiative has increased United’s year-to-year revenue by over 15%.
2. Get to know the customer: British Airways
British Airways uses an intelligent ‘Know Me’ feature to provide personalized search results to customers. In this impressive big data case study, BA identified that their customer base largely consists of busy, time-pressed professionals who require fast, concise results. Therefore, ‘Know Me’ uses in-depth data analysis to provide relevant and targeted offers for their consideration. BA received a huge amount of positive feedback from clients who loved the fact that the company understood their travel needs.
3. Deploy artificial intelligence: EasyJet
Many airlines go a step further than basic data collection. With new technology, it is possible for companies to analyze big data accumulated from purchase activity to demand patterns. For instance, if an airline sees the demand for a certain route increasing, they can adjust prices accordingly. From this information, the airline can also identify which customer segments are price sensitive, and determine a segment’s price range for a given route.
A related big data case study comes from EasyJet. EasyJet invested in an artificially intelligent algorithm that determines seat pricing automatically, depending on demand. Furthermore, the system can also analyze historical data to predict demand patterns up to a year in advance. These analytics can also impact future decision-making about new routes, schedules, and codeshare alliances.
4. In-flight intelligence: Southwest Airlines
Inflight, vast amounts of data are generated throughout the journey – pilot reports, warning reports, control positions, and air traffic control communications. When this data is closely monitored and analyzed it can streamline operations and improve safety. For example, Southwest Airlines have teamed up with NASA to continually improve airline safety. By using intelligent algorithms, Southwest and NASA have created an automated system that can crunch an enormous amount of data to flag anomalies and prevent accidents.
5. Making lost bags a thing of the past: Delta
American airline Delta has developed an app which allows customers to track their bags on their smartphones. The concept is simple – the app uses exactly the same technology that the Delta ground staff use. So far, the app has been downloaded over 11 million times by Delta customers globally.
Take a big data case study and apply it to your organization
Big data presents a multitude of opportunities for the aviation industry. Through analysis, they can streamline maintenance, improve safety, and cut costs. Furthermore, big data can help airlines to have a better understanding of their customer. They can study each individual's behavior, track their preferences, and project future demands. By leveraging big data, airlines can develop their operations and marketing strategy, enabling them to stand out in an intensely competitive market.