September 13, 2016

Challenging current airline planning with 21st century data capabilities

In this piece, Faical Allou, Head of Business Development for Skyscanner Analytics,  takes on the challenges facing airline planning and the power and potential that technology could provide the industry, should they choose to harness it.

I was invited to speak at a conference earlier this month to talk about data and I put together a presentation about what can be done today. I got great feedback so I thought I would share it here with a larger audience.

I've been involved with airline planning for a long time in pretty much all aspects (including: typing/sending SCRs by email to get a landing slot, drawing a schedule on a large paperboard for 30 airplanes, calibrating and using the most advanced network planning software in the market, starting up an airline in Congo and writing up fleet planning strategies worth  $billion+). While doing that, I realized that little had changed in the planning process. We still do the same things that were invented last century with the same tools. Planning is still based on sets of false assumptions that are used because nothing better is available ... well now we can do better and with little effort.

Pretty much every airline in the world has a website, so every airline in the world can have access to user IP addresses (and thus users' exact location) and with the low cost of storage, airlines can also gather what travellers search for, not only the final purchase (be it on their website or through their APIs).

The presentation below shows what can be done if we broaden the data landscape to include "internet searches" as a first step. It is based on 200 million+ monthly searches our users perform on Skyscanner stored in our data product Travel Insight. Those conclusions could also be drawn from every airline internal search data.

To summarize those findings:

  1. There is an increasing gap between where users want to go and where airlines fly (i.e. planning based on flown data is increasingly irrelevant. => Airlines should incorporate the "shopping" data in their process)
  2. Users are increasingly choosing to fly from alternate airports (i.e. planning based on airport-to-airport traffic is increasingly misleading. => Airlines should take into account travellers' true origin)
  3. Planning done 10 months in advance is too early to capture changes in trends (i.e. in our fast paced world, users' decisions last year shouldn't be used to plan this year. => Airlines should take the steps to move the entire ecosystem into shorter and more frequent planning periods)



Airline analytics for the 21st century from Faical Allou.

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