Flight data whitepaper


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Flight data whitepaper

  1. 1. 1©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com FLIGHT DATA CONSOLIDATION AND NEW AIRLINE OPPORTUNITIES WHITE PAPER Enhancing Flight Data-related Services While Reducing Cost PUBLISHED: May 2014 FlightStats, Inc. 522 SW Fifth Ave Suite 200 Portland, OR 97204 USA Tel. +1 (503) 274-0938 www.flightstats.com
  2. 2. 2 ©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPERFlight Data Consolidation and New Airline Opportunities Enhancing Flight Data-related services while reducing costs INTRODUCTION Disruptions are an unavoidable fact of modern air travel. With load factors exceeding 80% and airlines carefully controlling capacity to remain profitable, there is precious little “slack” in the system to accommodate even relatively minor disruptions. Throw in an east-coast snowstorm or a line of thunderstorms in the Midwest, and you have the recipe for crowds of frustrated passengers broadcasting their angst in real time via social media. Industry analysts estimate that at least 5% of passengers experience a significant disruption every year. In a 2013 Tnooz article commissioned by Amadeus, 42% of survey respondents said that managing disruptions was one of the most important areas for improvement for the industry. Clearly, improving the passenger experience—especially during disruptions—is a strategic investment opportunity for airlines and airports. Delivering consistent, reliable, and timely flight status information through a variety of outlets is a foundation for quality service and a satisfied customer. How many times have we watched news reports with frustrated passengers in crowded airports complaining that they can’t get information on what’s happening with their flights? Customers expect convenient access to up-to-date status information from airport monitors, automated phone systems, web sites, and mobile phone messaging. However, for many airlines, collecting, formatting, and distributing timely data though the patchwork of legacy systems and data formats is an expensive proposition and a maintenance headache. This whitepaper examines the challenges of collecting, collating, verifying, and distributing real time and historical flight status information across a variety of internal and external channels and consumers. We will discuss the challenges and present a new approach to the problem that holds the promise of timely, accurate and consistent data distributed both internally and externally at a lower cost and without expensive IT projects.
  3. 3. 3©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER DATA STANDARDS TO THE RESCUE? Introduction of data format standards, such as AIDX (Aviation Information Data Exchange), offer the promise of simpler data exchanges by specifying common data formats. While having a data standard can provide advantages, unfortunately, those advantages only come at the cost of significant new IT projects to adapt existing systems to the new standard or to build new systems—projects that often take a back seat to more immediate revenue-generating opportunities. With the growth of code sharing agreements, many airlines only have data for the flights they actually operate. For some carriers, codeshares make up well over half of their schedules, meaning that even if new systems are developed, they still may have significant gaps in data coverage. This missing or inconsistent data results in more customer service calls, incomplete information for revenue management and other internal organizations, and more unhappy customers. It also compromises carriers ability to proactively re-accommodate customers with an interline itinerary. Additionally, most carriers have very limited historical on-time performance data for their competitors, codeshare and alliance partners. Data, if available at all, is often 45-60 days old, has limited resolution, and is in a format that makes extracting useful information time consuming and difficult. IT ALL STARTS WITH DATA COLLECTION Demands for accurate, timely data all start with collecting, collating, and verifying data. Airline operational data has to be combined with multiple government, airport and proprietary sources to present a complete picture. Airport operations also have to update operational data as gate assignments and other conditions change in real time. In addition, data from codeshare partners must be integrated in order to provide a complete picture of all the flights operated and marketed by a carrier. Since many of these data sources use disparate data formats and transfer mechanisms, combining, collating, and validating data is very challenging. Combining data from multiple sources helps improve the accuracy and timeliness of the final result. However, combining data is a complex undertaking that creates opportunities for errors since multiple sources sometimes disagree and changes may take time to propagate across various data channels. Some data sources may be more reliable in one condition, such as a flight cancellation or gate change. Other sources may be more reliable in other conditions, such as a diversion or ETA change. Algorithms for combining the disparate data sources must be intelligent and adaptable to meet changing conditions. The goal is to maintain the highest level of data integrity during the collection and harmonizing of data providing the opportunity of turning big data into smart data. DATA DISTRIBUTION IN REAL TIME Once the data is collected, collated, and verified, the challenge of distributing data to multiple sources and insuring that all outlets have consistent data begins. For most carriers there are at least three categories of data consumers:
  4. 4. 4 ©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER I. Passenger Flight Status Applications Passengers expect access to accurate real-time flight information via a variety of channels, including mobile apps, email, text messaging and web sites in both pushed messaging and on-demand services. It is imperative that the information provided be accurate, timely and consistent across all delivery channels. In addition, passengers on codeshare flights expect the marketing carrier and the operating carrier to provide consistent information. In push alert applications, it’s important to deliver messages according to the passenger’s requirements, and that only relevant messages be delivered. For example, a passenger probably doesn’t want to be awakened with a text message at three a.m. when a gate change has occurred six hours before their flight is departing. Passengers may also wish to receive notifications via email before their trip, but switch to receiving push messages through their favorite travel app once their trip has started. The ability to monitor a complete itinerary, instead of individual isolated flight segments can increase the relevance and value of the messages substantially. For example, if the application is able to recognize that a flight delay endangers a connection to a later flight segment, that information has much higher value to both the traveler and to an agent who can proactively re-accommodate the passenger or even make arrangements for an overnight stay if no alternate flights are available. In addition, airlines will have much better opportunity insert relevant offers and marketing information into alert messages when the messaging system recognizes how an individual flight segment relates to the entire itinerary. For example, an offer for parking might elicit a significant response in a pre-flight message for the first outbound segment, but would be irrelevant in a return flight segment. II. Third Party Data Consumers Airports, car rental companies, hotels, and ground transportation companies all need access to accurate and timely flight status information as well, including codeshare information. Each of these data consumers has their own legacy systems with unique interface requirements. While standards like AIDX promise to relieve some of these challenges with a higher degree of data standardization, many carriers are not willing to invest the considerable resources to adapt their existing systems to the new standard. Even within the standard, optional fields and other implementation details are likely to cause problems with system integration. III. Internal Data Distribution A variety of internal airline organizations also need access to timely, reliable information. There are dozens of scenarios where internal organizations can benefit from access to this data, but let’s consider just four: 1. Airline customer service agents can provide high-value, loyalty- building customer service by detecting in advance customers whose
  5. 5. 5©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER connections are in jeopardy and proactively re-accommodating the passenger. Proactive re-accommodation both reduces the requirements for customer service agents in the airports and reduces passenger frustration. They can be re-accommodated before the passenger ever arrives at the connecting airport and receive updated reservation information either via their mobile device or even through flight attendants on board the aircraft. 2. In addition, cabin crew could be given a list of passengers who were recently disrupted so that they can offer a personal apology and perhaps a free in-flight amenity. This kind of high-touch personal service can turn a negative experience into an opportunity to build loyalty. 3. Armed with reliable and timely information about delays or disruptions on competing carriers, revenue management organizations may be able to adjust the value of their remaining inventory. 4. Similarly, station agents can benefit from knowing about off-schedule operations of their own and competitive carriers’ flights in order to prepare and staff customer service locations appropriately. The bottom line is that convenient access to both request/response flight status information and exception notification messages offers substantial benefit to internal organizations as well as passengers and third parties. HISTORICAL DATA CHALLENGES Airlines can also benefit from complete, timely, and easy-to-access historical on-time performance data. If objective historical data is available across all carriers, sales organizations can use on-time performance as a competitive advantage in winning corporate and government contracts. Marketing and revenue management organizations can also easily identify markets where they have competitive advantage. Management can offer incentives for on-time performance with reliable, timely information, and operations groups can optimize route analysis and planning. In addition, service problems and inefficiencies are easier to spot when accurate historical information is available immediately, instead of weeks or months later. While a certain amount of on-time performance data is available through the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), such data is generally very limited in resolution, and only available 30 to 45 days after the end of the reporting period. Additionally, data is lost whenever a flight number or any schedule variable changes by as little as a single minute, and again, there is no correlation between marketing flight numbers and the operating carrier data. The data is also not provided in a form that is conducive to analysis. There appears to be a great need for more complete, accurate and timely historical data in a form that is easy to query and reduce to useful reports for internal organizations as well as marketing and sales efforts. Of course, some data collection and distribution challenges can be met with internal IT development projects to build new systems and/or adapt existing systems to new data standards and integrate new data sources. The problem is that while complete, accurate and timely flight status information is a key to quality service, improvement of flight status data is generally not given high priority, or at least not as high as the applications
  6. 6. 6 ©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER built to rely upon it. As new data standards gain wider acceptance and government regulators demand better information, these projects may be forced to the top of the list. Fortunately, there is an alternative to large, expensive IT data projects. A NEW APPROACH What if there was a neutral third-party data repository that could collect data in all the various formats used by airlines, airports, civil aviation authorities, and other sources? Instead of hundreds of IT projects underwritten by individual airlines, this single repository could handle collecting, aggregating, and cross-checking various sources to build a complete picture of flight status, starting with flight schedules and monitoring the flight through it’s entire life cycle. Data could be archived for years to provide not only real-time information but an industry-wide accurate historical picture of performance down to the individual flight segment. FlightStats has taken this position, becoming an integral part of the travel eco-system. FlightStats data aggregation and distribution platform collects data from more than 300 sources, including direct operational feeds from airlines around the world. The FlightStats platform provides data to more outlets than any other source, including all the major internet search engines as well as the majority of mobile travel applications. Over 35% of the world’s travelers reference FlightStats data every day. FlightStats codeshare mapping function insures that consistent data is available both for the operating carrier as well as all the marketing carriers for a flight. In addition, a wide variety of data and messaging options are available including fully hosted data and alert messaging solutions, web services and data feeds. The FlightStats Itinerary Monitoring platform is used by many of the world’s largest travel management companies as well as leading airlines. Best of all, airlines can ensure the integrity of their information in this platform is as accurate and timely as possible by participating in this data repository with minimal IT investment.
  7. 7. 7©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER MULTI-SOURCE DATA AGGREGATION The FlightStats platform is first and foremost a data aggregator. FlightStats collects data from published schedules, government sources, travel agencies, Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and airline direct connections. FlightStats has data on in excess of 87% of scheduled flights for the top 250 carriers, and more than 80% of all scheduled flights worldwide with multiple sources of status and delay information on most of the world’s flights. Collecting data from multiple sources allows the system to provide more timely, complete, and accurate information and to detect and correct for errors or omissions from individual sources. Priority is given to the most reliable and timely sources—usually airline direct connections. In addition, our codeshare mapping functionality “fills in the holes” that exist in virtually every other data source by connecting operational data with the marketed flight numbers so that customers don’t have to call to track down the operating flight number to get reliable status information. FlightStats archives this massive database to create the most comprehensive and accurate historical database of on-time performance for commercial flights worldwide. DATA DISTRIBUTION : LOW COAST AND FLEXIBLE Accurate, timely data aggregated from multiple sources is not very useful unless you also have the means to distribute the data and deliver appropriate messages based on triggering events within the data. The FlightStats platform provides a comprehensive suite of solutions for delivering the full benefit of this real-time and historical flight status database. Data and messaging is available in a wide variety of formats and applications: • Thoroughly documented and easy-to-use XML, SOAP, and REST APIs (application programming interfaces) are available to facilitate custom application development and integration with existing systems. APIs are available for flight status and flight history, event notification, flight positioning on a map, weather conditions, airport information, and on- time performance ratings. • Hosted applications are also available, such as the Itinerary Monitoring and event messaging system that provides traveler alerts and itinerary- at-risk information to call centers. The hosted messaging solution enables airlines to quickly implement intelligent event messaging with virtually no development. The solution can send branded email or text messages without the costs of developing a custom solution or deploying an enterprise event messaging system. The call center product provides information about itineraries that are expected to experience trip disruptions and provides problem resolution and workflow processes that reduce costs and enhance customer service. Both of these products offer powerful functionality with limited investment. • Data feeds are also available for both real-time and historical analytics applications.
  8. 8. 8 ©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER ADVANCED ITINERARY MONITORING Day of travel, mobile messaging has become a competitive imperative for all airlines. As we have discussed, the first challenge is monitoring both operated and marketed flights and providing consistent, relevant, and timely information on all flights. The next, even more daunting challenge is sifting through the huge volume of constantly changing data to find relevant changes that should trigger alerts. Failing to trigger a message on a relevant change can cause a traveler to miss important details, or even miss a flight. But triggering on too many irrelevant details will likely frustrate travelers and cause them to miss important alerts in the mass of irrelevant ones. Traditional flight monitoring solutions provide flight status alerts on a single flight segment. However, these systems don’t recognize the place of a flight in the complete itinerary, and as a result, they often generate meaningless messages. For example, a gate change for the first segment of a flight is significant if it happens within the last few hours before departure, since it may impact where the traveler parks or is dropped off by ground transportation. A gate change in a second segment of a connecting flight isn’t relevant until the traveler arrives at the connecting airport. FlightStats’ Itinerary Monitoring solution monitors the entire lifecycle of a trip and triggers relevant messages at each stage, delivered based on the traveler’s pre-trip and day-of-travel preferences. Tight connections are made less stressful with connection messages to the traveler that give connecting gate information and time to connect as well as flight delays, cancellations and gate changes. Agents also benefit, as they can be proactively notified of trip interruptions and can provide high-value service to proactively re-accommodate passengers, reducing the load on airport station agents while simultaneously turning what can be a very frustrating experience for a passenger into a positive experience that builds loyalty and differentiates one carrier’s service from another. Figure 1. illustrates the lifecycle of a typical itinerary, with a list of possible messages that can be made available at each stage. Figure 1 – Messaging options during the entire itinerary lifecycle.
  9. 9. 9©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER PERFORMANCE ANALYTICS: SOPHISTICATED AND ACCESIBLE FlightStats Analytics offers in-depth historical performance information on carriers, airports and routes. The product offers a reliable, neutral third- party source for comprehensive, easy- to-use historical performance reporting across the industry. Designed to present absolute and comparative flight performance data in a clear, easy-to-read format, reports reveal the trends and realities of flight performance - delays, runway time, cancellations and diversions, degree of lateness, impact of changing flight numbers and more. By mining our vast archive of data regarding historical flight schedules and flight performance, airlines and others may be able to gather the market share and competitive performance numbers they need, while replacing some of the expensive reporting solutions currently in place. ONE AIRLINE’S EXPERIENCE FlightStats is partnering with airlines to help them reduce costs, improve customer service, and compete more effectively. Improve Customer Service with Itinerary Monitoring. Leading airlines and travel agencies are building customer loyalty and reducing costs by implementing FlightStats Itinerary Monitoring product. By monitoring the entire itinerary instead of just individual flight segments, FlightStats can recognize important events such as an at-risk or missed connection and send special messages to service agents. Instead of a frustrated traveler standing in a long line at the airport waiting for a customer service agent, agents in the central reservation office or at airport stations can manage a queue of at- risk connections and proactively re-accommodate passengers. Agents can send the traveler a message informing them of the new arrangements and instructing them to avoid the ticket counter all together. Since FlightStats has data on the vast majority of flights worldwide, and unique codeshare mapping capability, itinerary monitoring is effective even on interline or codeshare itineraries. The airline saves cost by reducing the need for customer service agents and reducing delays induced by holding flights for connecting passengers. Passengers gain a much better experience, even when there are delays. Best of all, the entire system can be implemented very quickly and with minimal setup costs. One major US carrier implemented a FlightStats Itinerary monitoring and branded messaging system in less than 60 days from start to production release. Alaska Airlines Case Study Situation – Existing flight segment messag- ing solution was lacking coverage of many code share and other airline segments of the passengers’ entire flight itinerary. Alaska was anxious to enhance customer service. Solution – With FlightStats Itinerary Moni- toring solution, AS leveraged GDS queues to capture itineraries and then monitored each trip from end to end, pushing timely and complete alerts to those who requested them, including connecting status and gate information. The system includes 100% of their marketed and operated flights and is fully customized and branded. Result – Alaska Airlines system was com- pleted in just two months with minimal IT resources required from the carrier and suc- cessful deployment of the solution.
  10. 10. 10 ©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER Reduce Data Distribution Costs. With the growth of alliances and code sharing agreements, distributing consistent, timely, and reliable flight status information to alliance members and code sharing partners can become a significant cost and maintenance challenge. Add to this the challenge of distributing FIDS data to airports and it’s easy to see why airports and airlines are increasingly turning to FlightStats as a data distribution partner. Airlines benefit by reducing or eliminating expensive IT projects to distribute data to airports, alliance members and web sites, internal organizations, and code sharing partners. Many airlines have also recognized the benefit of providing FlightStats with a direct connection to their operational data so that the data FlightStats provides is always consistent with their own internal systems and is the most timely and accurate information available. Travelers and those who care about them look to many places for their flight information. If an airline’s flight status is distributed, consistent and accessible, it reduces support costs and inquires. By distributing airline status through the FlightStats platform, airlines can keep the right information in the public eye at no cost or IT effort to them while supporting distribution channels like Google, MSN, Yahoo, in-dash connected car systems, flightstats.com, Priceline, and fifty of the world’s largest corporate travel management companies who use FlightStats data and services exclusively to support their premium customers. Better Information for Revenue Management and other internal organizations. FlightStats’ unmatched historical performance database and flight on-time performance rating system provides a window into the market that has been difficult or expensive to find in the past. Revenue Management can gain an objective measure of on-time performance to measure value relative to the competition. Sales organizations can use this information in corporate contract negotiation. Operations organizations can more easily spot problems in the schedule and improve performance, which ends up reducing costs and using equipment and crews more efficiently.
  11. 11. 11©2014 FlightStats, Inc. | 522 SW 5th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97204 | www.flightstats.com WHITE PAPER ABOUT FLIGHTSTATS FlightStats is a leading global provider of data services and applications to the travel industry and traveling public. FlightStats delivers airline and airport information services to the travel industry via applications and is a data aggregator to the traveling network worldwide with airlines, airports, agencies, travelers and developers who serve the travel community. We also provide web and mobile applications to the travel community that are viewed by millions of people supporting global travelers so they may better manage their travel. FlightStats has customers worldwide that it serves from its corporate offices in Portland, Oregon. FlightStats, Inc. 522 SW Fifth Ave. Suite 200 Portland, OR 97204 www.flightstats.com