Take airports. If you are like me, and airports are your second home - you start noticing all kinds of crazy stuff. Emotional farewells, stressed businessmen running for tight connections, and the infinite varieties of what goes for carry-on luggage.
However if you are an airline there is one thing you pay very close attention to. Namely - when your planes arrive and how fast you can turn them around for another flight. That little number is the secret behind why some airlines survive and others get permanently grounded.
It's also a big data problem.
From gate conflicts, weather patterns, operational challenges to air traffic management, the dynamics of a flight can change quickly and lead to costly delays. Knowing how to manage around these variables can make a huge difference to the bottom line.
Alaska Airlines had lots of data to work with, but very little of it was actionable when it mattered. They knew that if they could give their pilots a real time prediction of their estimated arrival time - the pilots could then make adjustments en route to optimise turnaround.
So working with GE and Kaggle, an open platform for innovation contests - they realised their flight data was a crowdsourced challenge. What happened next was astounding. They got over 3000 responses from data scientists around the world, the winning algorithm predictied arrival times 40 percent better than the current industry average which was only accurate to within 7 minutes. And more importantly, they gained a powerful new weapon in the war for improving real time results.
Here's the key takeaway - the best use of Big Data in the travel business, or really any business, is the one that gives you more clarity on the levers that really drive your performance and profitability. If you don't want big data to mean even bigger IT budgets, keep it focused on how you can make better decisions.
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