Big Data has had an effect on almost every industry in the world. From manufacturing in China to Finance in London, none have been truly unaffected. One industry that has seen considerable improvements through the use of Big Data however, is certainly air travel.
With the use of data in flights, companies have improved customer satisfaction, increased knowledge of their customers and improving the reliability of their aircraft to reduce delays and potential lost revenue.
At the moment the air industry is not at the peak of where Big Data could take them, many are just starting on the journey, but the impacts have already been felt. For instance, Norwegian carrier Widerøe are beginning to use Big Data in its call centres to allow for increased understanding of passenger behaviour and previous contact with them.
Creating this kind of personalised and informed service will only improve customer relations on the other end of the phone. Delta have taken the steps to go one further, equipping their cabin staff with smart devices that are currently used mainly for on-board purchases, but in future will be used to create personalised services on flights for each customer.
In fact, most of the world’s major airlines have begun to undertake similar projects, with KLM, British Airways and Emirates alongside many others who are trying out similar techniques to create a better customer experience.
It is not only airlines who have utilised this shift to a more data centric approach, with Gatwick, Heathrow and Sydney making the most of the data available to them for improved customer experience. For instance, Heathrow and Gatwick offer an app that tracks where the passenger is in the airport and can offer personalised messages and offers based on their movements or actions.
When a passenger boards a plane, Big Data has meant that there is a reduced risk of delays. This is because from ground stations, faults or errors on a plane can be tracked with sensors that are constantly communicating data.This means that if a plane does have a fault whilst flying, ground crews can fully prepare with the necessary parts and equipment meaning that the plane can be fixed and be back in the air in significantly less time.
Improving the turnaround time when there are faults is one thing, but another aspect of Big Data that is being used to help stop the delays in the first place is through the use of safety monitoring. Each year a plane can create 2.5 billion Terabytes of sensor data. Southwest Airlines have been working with NASA on this and have made use of this data alongside collaboratively created algorithms in order to pinpoint small anomalies that could represent a safety issue on planes. This means both improved safety on their planes and decreased equipment malfunctions, so fewer delays.
Big Data is clearly beginning to have a major impact on air travel, with more data being created both through the plane sensors and the passengers on board, the opportunities to use this data will only increase. It provides innovative companies with the opportunity to improve major aspects of their business, from using data to improve customer retention through to making planes safer and more reliable. One thing that we can be sure of for the moment, we are only at the start of the upwards curve in data usage in the airline industry.