What being a data-driven airline would mean for your operations

By Hélène Dubos | Personalization

May 23
data-driven means for airline ops

Whether it’s in-flight services, check in processes or call centers, operations are a major cost center for airlines - and they’re crying out for improvement. Indeed, according to Mckinsey, some 45% of an airline’s cost structure consists of these kinds of tasks and processes, many of which are still managed in a fairly traditional and manual manner. So even a minor improvement in the way they’re run could have an enormous impact on efficiency and customer satisfaction - and data analytics technology could play a big hand in helping this.

However, in this series of blogs about the implications of airlines becoming data-driven, we’ve seen that becoming a truly data-driven organization is about much more than ‘just’ introducing new data analytics software (although that’s evidently a key step). Rather, the true benefits will only be achieved when airlines take a whole new look at their processes in order to take advantage of the opportunities that the technology offers.

Let’s look at three areas that airlines can change their operational processes to incorporate the potential that data analytics presents.

Being data-driven: reinvigorating in-flight services

In-flight services cover a range of activities, including seat reallocation, personalized greetings from staff and assistance for VIP or people with disabilities. Today, the management of most of these processes is still effectively manual - very often staff are simply expected to notice the needs of passengers or respond to specific requests.

The irony is that, in many cases, airlines already hold the data they need to offer these services more effectively, but they are not using them. To benefit from the insights that the data offers, they must change their processes. Let’s see what this might look like:

  • An elderly, partially sighted Portuguese passenger regularly flies to visit her expat daughter in France. Her daughter always flies home to ‘collect’ her, before accompanying her on the flight back to France.
  • In the traditional process, in-flight staff may be told by the daughter that her mother is partially-sighted, or they may notice the trouble she is having - and then offer to help. However, with little or no warning, they may not have the right resources to help.
  • In a data-driven process, the staff would receive an advanced notification in their customer service software to let them know that the passenger is partially sighted. In their pre-fight meeting, the staff could prepare a strategy for dealing with her, ensuring she is completely comfortable.
  • The required change: In-flight operation managers must be trained to understand and analyze incoming data and truly incorporate this information into their meetings and decision-making

Being data-driven: connecting call center agents with the right information

In many airlines, call center staff continue to be the frontline of dispute resolution. However, very often these frontline staffs have very little information on the customer they’re speaking to - other than perhaps some notes in a CRM.

Once again, the irony is that airlines collect so much data they could quite easily connect this much more seamlessly to help call center staff truly understand the customer and their relationship to the airline - they’re just not managing to stitch together that data. Let’s see how this could be improved.

A customer is calling up to complain about perceived poor service by one of your onboard staff, making various allegations about mistreatment.

  • A customer is calling up to complain about perceived poor service by one of your onboard staff, making various allegations about mistreatment.
  • In the traditional process, the call center staff would have very little internal information to understand the customer’s complaint, and this would trigger a long internal assessment to review whether the complaint is fair or not. 
  • In a data-driven process, information about the customer is channeled from multiple sources into the CRM, meaning the call center staff would have access to more background details. They might, for instance, the customer’s full travel history, with details on recent travels, flight delays, bag loss and any special treatment already offered at the cabin crew level to then take the appropriate decision. 
  • The required change: intelligent workflows and data feeds need to build to connect the CRM with insightful information. In addition, cabin crews could become a valuable source of data if they are trained and equipped with a device to record key information that can further enrich the airline’s knowledge. 

​Being data-driven: dealing with late passengers

Another key area of airline operations is customer communications when passengers are late. At present, the only way airlines can really contact these travellers is through announcements over the airport’s speakers - an approach with many obvious limitations.

The good news is that the data that airlines hold means they often have everything they need to communicate with late passengers already. Let’s see how this might work.

  • An elderly, partially sighted Portuguese passenger regularly flies to visit her expat daughter in France. Her daughter always flies home to ‘collect’ her, before accompanying her on the flight back to France.
  • In the traditional process, the only option for dealing with this would be announcements over the airline’s loud speakers
  • In a data-driven process, you have so many more means to resolve this kind of situation. Customers could receive a text or app notification when the airline is boarding and if they are still delayed, the airline staff would be able to easily call up their number from a device.
  • The required change: A customer success manager will need to be recruited to work alongside IT teams to create a series of templates for a wide range of possible customer communications, while also being on hand for ad hoc and unpredictable scenarios.

Airline operations are ripe for becoming data driven

Operations are an ideal place for airlines to begin instigating their data-driven strategy, by using technology which connects data from across their systems to make these processes work more effectively. However, as we’ve seen, simply adding new tech is only part of the solution - just as important is the need to change existing processes (and in some cases, hiring people to make these changes) to make use of the potential that the tech offers.

Thinking about becoming more data driven? Learn more about the ConztanzONE platform for airlines