Human-centric data, automated personalisation to steer aviation sector in 2020s

Data and analytics will continue to be one of the key drivers of the commercial aviation industry going into a new decade, predicted travel data and analytics expert Cirium, but it warned that analytics will have to become much more human-centric, with a significant focus on end-users.

David White, director, market development at Cirium, said: “The past decade’s biggest challenge for commercial aviation has been to safely keep up with a rate of passenger demand that is straining the systems’ capacity. The skies are crowded, the competition is fierce, and operational environment is extremely complex. Airlines and airports have had to get much smarter about how to use technology, data, and process to squeeze additional capacity out of limited resources.”

Aviation industry leverage big data analytics to facilitate predictions and forecast demand, but there needs to be greater focus on end-users: Cirium

Here are the top 5 aviation and travel trends to watch in 2020 and beyond, according to Cirium’s industry experts:

Human-centered data and analytics 2.0
While big data and analytics became popularised in the previous decade, there is still a lot of untapped potential. The race to extract meaningful and valuable information out of new data sources has only just begun.

Steve Wilson, data scientist at Cirium, said: “The amount of data being generated by aircraft, locations and devices is increasing. Getting this data wrangled and into decision makers should help make the industry more efficient. This mountain of data being created – something like 100 billion GB annually as estimated by Oliver Wyman – can be used for forecasting and predictions. Deep learning models, despite not being quite capable of general artificial intelligence, should prove really useful in reaching gains and improvements for the industry.”

If you think of data-driven intelligence as a series of phases, then 2020 will herald the human-centered phase of our data evolution. The previous phase was about using structured and unstructured data to answer questions after an event. The next phase will be a matter of anticipating behaviour and providing answers before questions need to be asked.

Predictive maintenance
Quality data is the foundation for any type of predictive capability. Now that the technology needed to collect, process, prepare and structure massive amounts of device data exists, there is a good chance machine learning could evolve enough in the next decade to monitor patterns and events in real-time.

“There is already a focus on data collection and analytics to drive aftermarket service revenue growth for aircraft manufacturers, MRO service providers and systems suppliers,” said Andrew Doyle, director, market development at Cirium.

“The next step is development and deployment of predictive maintenance algorithms enabling replacement of critical components prior to failure, leading to a significant reduction in aircraft technical delays.”

Airline revenue management
The power of predictive analytics doesn’t stop at the physical parts of an aircraft. Airlines and airports are getting better at predicting consumer demand and optimising price or inventory to maximise revenue growth. For example, airlines now have tools at their disposal to accurately forecast demand on a cabin level, thereby getting a look at their true profit in a market.

“If you look at the US domestic market, both American and Delta have come out with growth plans that are above the industry three to four per cent growth rates,” said Nathan Greer, sales engineer at Cirium. “Delta is managing this by upgrading to larger aircraft, while American is doing the same, in addition to reconfiguring aircraft with additional seats.”

Accommodating predicted demand isn’t something airlines will be able to do alone. It will take collaboration and connection across the industry to achieve new levels of revenue growth.

“Certain Asian markets are the fastest growing in the industry. The challenge for the 2020s will be to expand the ability of airlines, airports, and ANSPs to share data and collaborate across the region in order to keep traffic flowing, passengers safe, and to deliver a quality service. Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics will be a good test for the overall network,” White said.

A current barrier to increased collaboration among airlines and airports is the reluctance to share data. Trust and ownerships of data remain major issues in the industry. However, the key to making progress in maximising revenue in 2020 and beyond will be a less restricted exchange of data. The benefits of this exchange will mean a more seamless journey towards developing more sophisticated, enhanced analytics.

“In the decade to come, I think we can expect to see technology largely improving airline and airport operational efficiency,” said Joanna Lu, head of consultancy, Asia, at Cirium. “Data and information sharing among stakeholders in the industry shall be improved to face the headwinds.”

Dynamic personalisation
It’s widely known people buy experiences, not products. In the decade to come, each part of the trip experience will be impacted through personalisation powered by machine learning – from in-flight services to pre-trip planning and disruption recovery.

While the 2010s were an era for change in the way customer problems were addressed, the 2020s will be a time where brands get smarter about every single customer touchpoint. The next logical step after customer service is customer engagement. It’s no longer sufficient to quickly answer questions and resolve problems. The time has come to create ongoing interactions between customer and company, shaped by the customer profile.

“Airlines are stepping up their game to adapt and engage individual traveller types by analysing their preferences, behaviour and demographics,” said Charles Brossman, senior product manager at Cirium. “They’re launching new and exciting customer engagement strategies to interact with them. This makes customers feel noticed and appreciated, which is critical to building brand loyalty.”

Tailoring messages and services to individual travellers is the expectation right now, particularly among Millennials. Yet, most airlines and other travel service providers still don’t have the right mix of data, technology and people to achieve a personalised experience customers will remember. The opportunity to impress and win over travellers on an emotional level is still wide open.

Cirium’s marketing director Carrie Mamantov said: “Automated personalisation will finally be coming to travel. A few airlines are getting all their data organised and breaking down the siloes to better link up the different dimensions of customer information. Look for loyalty to build with the brands who can predict needs and behaviour based on the omni-channel experience finally becoming more actionable.”

Providers across the industry will endeavour to link their value to traveller data. From manufacturing to tech services, every part of the ecosystem has an opportunity to be valuable to airlines and travellers.

The travel industry has been one of the major targets of environmental criticism in recent years. Air travel accounts for about 2.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, after all.

Airlines are already having to take stronger action to minimise their carbon footprint. In this new decade, they will also be expected to ensure fuel efficiency isn’t outstripped by growing demand.

“We are seeing the very early stage of electric aircraft now flying in Canada,” said Alistair Rivers, director, market development at Cirium. “There will be pressure to reduce operations of current fuel-operated aircraft. I live in hope of a coordinated single European sky from an air traffic control point of view as this has massive potential to save both fuel and time by allowing aircraft to fly more directly.”

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