How Gatwick Airport is Embracing Big Data
Using big data to improve the airport customer experience and plane turnaround times.
Gatwick Airport, United Kingdom
Increasingly airlines and airports are starting to embrace big data and data analytics to improve their operations and the customer experience. These days air travel is no longer considered a luxury, it's a business necessity and a common experience for many people who take several vacations and shorts breaks every year. This means that the airline industry is under more pressure than it has ever been to minimize delays and ensure that passengers get to where they want to be on time. While technological innovations are helping with these endeavours there is another powerful tool that air industry bosses can make use of and that's big data.
Big Data and Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport is the UK's second biggest airport after Heathrow, handling 45 million passengers each year who fly to more than 200 destinations in over 70 countries. It is now using big data to improve the speed with which it turns around planes, that is the unloading of passengers and baggage, refuelling, getting the next lot of passengers and baggage onboard and taking off. The aim according to Cathal Corcoran, Gatwick Airport's CIO is to turn around planes in thirty minutes and so sensors have been deployed to help achieve this ambitious goal.
“Say a plane's coming in late, you want to be able to make that time up,” said Corcoran in an interview with computing.co.uk. “So you want to be able to use a combination of people, processes and technology to help get that plane turned quickly. We now have technology more accurately forecasting what we can do. Can we reschedule that plane going out and avoid delays? Can we get it into the airspace more quickly, and minimize the impact on outbound passengers.”
The airport deploys lots of sensors and the information produced is given to a small company which states that their data analytics solutions can produce accuracy levels much greater than a human. And they can do this with only 12 months’ worth of data. With this information, Gatwick hopes to become better at predicting its capacity to turn a plan around.
Corcoran continued: “We'll run the new technology in parallel with the standard process for the next six to twelve months before switching, and deciding to trust what the computer tells us.”
Greater Understanding of Passenger Behaviours
Data is also being studied to understand how passengers move around the airport and how this affects shopping opportunities. Gatwick is using technology from the retail industry to analyze factors such as where passengers dwell, the direction in which they turn when they enter the airport and whether or not they stop at a particular place. This helps the airport and its retailers to better understand how consumers behave which can be used to market to them in new ways to encourage them to shop more.
Big data has amazing predicting powers and by dipping into the big data pool airlines and airports can vastly improve their offerings to consumers. Nobody underestimates the challenge but the results at least as far as Gatwick is concerned are encouraging.
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