Flying Higher with Big Data

Ever thought about how big data could improve airports?

Most people are aware of the fact that large, international airports generate millions of dollars in revenue for their respective regions. But the fact is, even smaller airports play a huge role in the economics of their hometowns. For example, in 2010, the State of Washington calculated that a single-runway airport in the small town of Moses Lake had an overall financial impact on the region of $770,000. Imagine how the growth of that income might produce more jobs and even better economics – and big data can play a key role in making that dream a reality.

The aviation industry as a whole is undergoing massive changes. Today, airlines need to work with airports and airport managers to understand passenger flow, reduce costs and enhance revenues. It’s an industry ripe for data-driven marketing, particularly if an IT solution can provide insights from both structured and unstructured data in real time so that there is a cohesive understanding of passengers and their behaviors.

For this reason, the aviation industry, and in particular, aviation facilities, represents a new and exciting area of big data business consulting for Alacer.

The data generated within this environment is so complex that it is often difficult to slice and dice using traditional tools. Usually, the structured data is managed through customized databases, but unstructured data is held in separate, functionally specific warehouses or embedded within software.

We recently had the opportunity to address this problem as we worked with an aviation management company to help it better examine its vast amounts of available data. Specifically, we needed to find a way to determine whether or not the management company’s Passenger Facility Charge rebate was achieving its goal of boosting revenue/traffic on selected routes.

An aviation facility’s ecosystem stretches from its ground handlers and supply chain to retailers, security and air traffic control. Technology is the sole enabler that can help this diverse set of customer touch points work together to maximize per-passenger revenues.

For this particular client, we designed algorithms and data analytics tools that would allow airport managers to track each passenger on incentivized routes, award a rebate as appropriate and have immediately updated access to information on the cost and success of the program. They could also calculate the amount of revenue the rebated passengers generated in the airport’s retail outlets, such as its Duty Free store. As a result, the managers could holistically see whether or not substantial rebates were of value to the airport authority and on which specific routes and periods they assisted in market growth.

As a side note, the airport authority chose to share its big data insights with the airport’s partner airlines and retailers, creating deeper relationships.

by Ed Sarausad