Airport of the future: The importance of analytics

How can operations that function primarily as brick-and-mortar enterprises excel in an era when digital companies win big? This is the big question facing airports today.

To find an answer, it’s worth looking at Amazon as a case study. Sure, Amazon started by selling books, but over time it has evolved into a complete digital services company, with an underlying architecture that can run just about any of its newer businesses: newspaper publishing; cloud storage, compute and networking technologies; and even gourmet food delivery.

But beyond simply offering goods and services, Amazon and companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google have perfected the art of anticipating what consumers want before they even know it themselves. And it’s analytics that provides insights into consumer behavior that give these businesses such a profound competitive advantage.

More enterprises today are leveraging digital data for competitive advantage, and airports are no exception. Every time a passenger interacts with an airport, the database gets smarter and can offer analytics that better anticipate the passenger’s future travel plans and airport preferences.

There are four primary benchmarks that airports can track with analytics to achieve results:

  1. Location. By tracking data on where passengers fly, airports can develop insights into which airlines they should do business with and how many gates they should offer to each carrier. This information can then be shared with the airlines, which can analyze the data for a better sense of where to best allocate resources.
  2. Preferences. Data on passenger preferences, such as what they eat at the airport, can help airports decide which food outlets to offer at any given airport. For example, an airport may have had six McDonald’s at an airport for a decade or more, but do they really need that today? Based on consumer buying patterns, analytics can help them determine a more appropriate mix of retailers and restaurants.
  3. Events. Once airports and airlines become digital companies, they will consider the entire interaction with the passenger as an “event.” The event begins from the moment the passenger orders tickets to the time she checks in, lands at her destination and returns home. Based on these past experiences, airports can share multifaceted passenger profiles with the airlines and retailers. As the historical data grows richer, the airlines can offer more accurate itineraries that reflect the type of flights, hotels, cars and recreation activities the passenger prefers, saving her time in planning the next trip.
  4. Weather. Airports live and die by the weather and can derive huge benefits by using analytics to gain more insight into weather patterns. For example, at ski regions, knowing the peak two or three weeks for snowfall can give passengers a better sense of when they should book a trip. If the airports know when passengers are traveling, they can alert the airlines and retailers to anticipated spikes in consumer traffic. They can also better prepare for adverse winter conditions – for example, knowing how many sand trucks to have on hand – and gain better insight into how the weather will impact aircraft on the ground, especially helping to schedule flight and maintenance crews.

The transition to digital offers airports a great opportunity to become the hub of the entire travel industry. They can stand idly by and watch while online companies such as Expedia, Trivago, and steal the show, or they can leverage analytics to become more proactive. Getting there will require some heavy systems integration work, but it’s important for airports to start thinking about how to evolve into digital companies. They can start by tracking these four important benchmarks and using analytics to make better decisions.

This is the second in a series of posts about the airport of the future. See the first post.

Next Up: DXC experts take a look how airports can evolve faster into digital enterprises with improved passenger experiences by deploying artificial intelligence (AI) features in audio, automation and video tools.


Michael S. Deittrick was chief technology officer for travel and transportation at DXC Technology. He left the company in February 2018. A thought leader in digital enterprise transformation and business outcome enablement strategies, he is responsible for enterprise solution development and digital strategy for the travel and transportation sector. Mike focuses on the “why” of technology to derive greater business outcomes for his customers. He is the original media geek, having worked on consumer media and technology convergence strategies in the mid- to late 1990s with the MIT Media Lab and Cyberworks (IPG-Campbell-Ewald).

Marc OglesbyMarc Oglesby is lead data scientist for the analytics solutions & services advisory practice at DXC Technology. With over 30 years’ experience, he is skilled in applying knowledge of advanced analytics, data mining and statistical techniques to design and develop enterprise analytic solutions across a number of industries, including commercial airline, air transportation, and IT Operations. He worked for 17+ years at American Airlines and has consulted for a number of other major airlines and IT organizations, including United Airlines, US Airways, and Sabre.  Marc has been a conference speaker for SAS (Statistical Analysis Systems) and is an active consultant in IT Service Management Analytics.


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  1. […] and executes tasks that would take hours or even days for human beings to complete. Based on the benchmarks for airport analytics we outlined in the last blog, here are three ways AI could use data collected by airports to […]

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