Data is the Game Changer for an Airline

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We are witnessing a shift that will completely transform travel. The term given to this shift was ‘big data’; today it is just called ‘data’. Travel and aviation are data-intense industries. Airlines are awash in terabytes of data drawn from different sources and different customer actions, for example, reservation history, fares and pricing information, PNRs, yields, ancillary preferences such as seats, cars or hotels, social media comments or complaints.

Tim Clark, President of Emirates believes that “data is key – if you don’t embrace data, you will perish”. Using data means that airlines can own the customer and create the future. Data can be used unlock insights, create actions and deliver unique customer experiences that benefit an airline’s bottom line. 

The big tech brands such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook know this: Greg Williams, Editor of Wired magazine encapsulates this in once sentence: ‘data is their key enabler’. Just like big tech, data can be the game changer for an airline. 

So, how will this data opportunity be applied in the 2020s? Airlines have two sources of customer data:

  • 1st Party Data: Information generated from an airline .COM site, social platform and mobile web or apps about customers. It typically consists of an airline customer’s personal information (name, email, addresses, phone number), demographic information (gender, age) and limited behavioural data (site interaction, purchase history, interests).
  • 3rd Party Data: Information generated from internet interactions and other websites. This data is used to give you deeper insight about your audience, such as individual demographics (income level, marital status) and household attributes (number of children). It can be used to build consumer segments for more targeted advertising. It’s collected and licensed by third-party providers that have no direct relationship with an airline’s customers, and you have to purchase this data to access it.

All airlines can use this trail of real-time data from multiple channels and from the whole customer journey – research, planning, price search, comparison, booking, in journey, and after the journey – to create a single customer view and deliver personalised propositions and experience that drive revenue and customer satisfaction.

Using data properly in the 2020s will allow airlines to accurately predict customer lifetime value for the first time, predict customer purchase propensity and segment customers with machine learning — all techniques and tools that were simply not available before.

Jayne Hrdlicka, Group CEO, Jetstar

Jetstar Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka encapsulates the data opportunity: “Jetstar now has a different look and feel. We are a big online retailing business with software engineers, analysts, data scientists – we are in the early stages of AI and Machine Learning and that’s being baked into our website and operations. We are selling to customers better and personalising. We are only 20% into the journey – the future is impossible for anyone to see fully – but we are super excited to use data and digital tools to sell better, manage costs better and serve customers better.”

The key action is to have a programme to unlock the value of data to make it relevant and actionable. Remember, in the 2020s, if your own the customer, you own the data. And if you own the data, you own the future.

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