Big Data is something we hear a lot about in the travel sector. As airlines face increasing pressure from travellers to improve the standards of air travel and create a more personal experience, while at the same time being tasked with finding new ways of generating revenue, Big Data is widely seen as an ideal solution to help deliver on all fronts.
The actual concept of Big Data – essentially taking a large amount of disparate, structured and unstructured data from various sources and turning it into something of real value – is now generally well understood, but working out how best to apply it to an operational airline is perhaps not quite as straightforward.
“Airlines are really starting to believe in Big Data and its benefits,” said Dermot O’Connor, Co-Founder & Vice President Engineering at Boxever, a company dedicated to helping the travel sector make the most of the masses of data it has access to. The key, he said, is “to understand the customer and to get a single view of them” by making use of existing data from a variety of channels, including things like web, mobile, apps and kiosks. “Lots of airlines and travel companies have disparate data across four or five databases,” he explained, so the benefit lies in bringing this together to help build a more detailed, individual profile of each passenger.
Leveraging Big Data to personalise the passenger experience
There are various ways this data can be used. For example, one of the airlines O’Connor has worked with, Norwegian carrier Widerøe, is keen to make use of Big Data in its call centres so agents have a more personal understanding of passenger behaviours and past experiences when conversing with them.
But another effective application is onboard, where flight attendants can be equipped with tablets that are updated with information such as details of passengers’ loyalty status, previous in-flight buying habits and insight into any past experiences with the airline – good or bad.