By Clive Gold, CTO Marketing, EMC Australia and New Zealand
A thought struck me on the weekend… could mining all the data Qantas has access to, change their business model to drive profitability and keep the unions happy at the same time? Then I started to ponder about the aspects of their, (any), business that could be improved by ‘Big Data’, and thought about example of how to improve some of the fundamental issues that drive cost, service, etc.
A major cost of any airline is obviously the fuel they burn, and I would imagine that a major dent is made into a flight’s profitability every time they have in-flight delays circle around, or sit on the tarmac chewing through the avgas. As a large consumer of air-services this aggravates me when I arrive at an airport to find that a flight has been delayed… and it appears the airline knew about this for some time! Recently I found FlightCaster, (here), who uses a variety of data sources to more accurately predict if a flight is going to leave on schedule. Most
systems just report on past history, whereas they look at weather, sports activities, current network incidents, etc.. It seems to me like more accurate information about departure and arrival times is a win win, better customer service and lower costs.
Let’s continue talking about customer service; I have to be one of any airlines best customers, almost totally self-sufficient. I am happy not to interact with any of their staff; I value being able to select my seat, use tripit and flighttrack (here) to keep up to date, and appreciate being able to check in while waiting in the security line or running towards the gate! I rarely consume their food or entertainment and I’m even built to fit their seats, (short legs). All I want it fast and efficient! Yet even on their top level of frequent flyer I have no personalised experience whatsoever. For example, every time I book a flight, I then log on to their site to select my seat! They know who I am, they should be able to detect this pattern, (I fly about a sector a week), yet I still have to click, click, click, click.. to get to ‘select my seat’.
Now if we put our minds to working out other areas where an airline could transform their operations by leveraging ‘Big Data’ it starts to become quite fun. Maybe a flight of fantasy, (pun intended.. dad joke), but imaging if an airline could decide which plane to send where in real-time? At any point in time a major airline has a number of planes at a particular airport, if they could maximise the load at that point in time and cut overall excess capacity, it drives profitability. If they tracked people’s food preferences they could cater more precisely resulting in less waste and more satisfied customers. (Pun again).
Just think about these things in your context for a while. You soon discover that every organisation has an ‘interaction’ or a ‘process’ can be improved by being able to analyse the available data at that time!!
To me that is what Big Data is about!