Swissport - unlocking data insights to make air travel easier

Swissport - unlocking data insights to make air travel easier

Q3 2019
 Swissport - unlocking data insights to make air travel easier


Swissport is the world's largest provider of ground and cargo handling services in the aviation industry and a long time business partner of SITA.

Swissport and SITA have now joined forces to unlock the value of the vast range of air transport data available to deliver enriched, predictive analytics for the entire industry. Here we talk to Swissport’s CIO, Christoph Kleinsorg.

What are the potential benefits of better collaboration among the players involved in your business? What is the scale of operations?

We are all getting more and more used to smoother and digital supported services. Think of Uber, of shopping at Amazon, and of automated SMS reminders from the dentist. Flight passengers also expect a smooth and digitally-supported journey, but we are not there yet.

Creating a shared eco-system of real-time data will enable the players in the aviation industry to improve and, in many cases, even expand the services we are providing.

Being a first-mover with SITA gives us and our customers the opportunity to benefit from data earlier. After we have built a strong IT infrastructure we can now further digitize our business processes, adding value to the services we offer to our more than 850 customers every day.

Christoph Kleinsorg, CIO, Swissport International (and SITA Board Director)

Can you give an example?

Of course. Today, passengers are waiting at the belts without knowing whether their luggage will arrive. If it does not arrive, they only realize that when the belt is empty. Then, they have to report it missing.

Better collaboration among the players in our business will enable us to use real-time data to keep passengers informed about their luggage.

That is, however, only one example. Better real-time data would also allow for the prioritizing of seating of passengers according to who has the least time to catch a connecting flight. Or, it could enable us to plan the service of planes according to value queuing instead of first-come, first-served and so on. 

What is the critical data that enables, or will enable, better collaboration?

Examples would be real-time flight information, information about tight connection transfer passengers and luggage, queuing time at the security check, and the value of flights and passengers. To exchange this data, however, an Industry Data Model is required, and this is what we are already working on with SITA and other industry partners.

Can you elaborate a little on the Industry Data Model?

To truly benefit from combining data from different providers and sources, a common business terminology must be in place. Having a shared Industry Data Model will help to reduce the time and effort needed for analysis and design of functional requirements by providing industry-specific information infrastructures.

Swissport and SITA are already cooperating on the development of an Industry Data Model and the result of the work done is a prerequisite for unlocking the full potential of our data.

What are the key technologies and capabilities that will enable increased collaboration?

The Industry Data Model is a must. When it comes to technologies, it will, in the beginning, be open APIs, stream technologies such as Kafka and Sparx, and, finally, microservices-based architectures. In the long run, blockchain could develop to be a key technology in the data-sharing ecosystem.

You are looking to leverage data to make proactive decisions for day-to-day operations. How do you see predictive analytics working?

The combination of data sources such as airlines, airports, security, ground handlers, traffic and weather conditions, etc., can improve the quality of predictive decisions. The luggage example aforementioned is one example.

With shared, real-time data, it would be possible to create end-to-end transparency of the location of any piece of luggage at any given time. Flight prediction is another example. More precise flight predictions could enable better allocation of ground handling staff and equipment.

It might even be possible to achieve fuel savings, to the benefit of the environment, as better flight predictions could reduce the time on-hold planes are circulating above airports to wait for a slot to land.

What data would you expect to share with other players? And to what end?

Data from Swissport could include actual times of departures, handover information of luggage, information on priority luggage for transfer flights and load information.

What benefits can your customers expect?

Going forward, our customers can expect additional data-driven services, more agile responses and support to changes – and maybe even cost savings due to fewer issues with passengers and lost luggage.

What benefits will passengers see? How will your approach improve the passenger journey?

Passengers will experience a smooth and digitally-supported journey. Whenever changes, delays or unforeseen events occur, real-time information will be at hand. Passengers can expect better, faster and more accurate support from the very moment the passenger leaves home to start his or her journey.

Creating a shared eco-system of real-time data will enable the players in the aviation industry to improve and, in many cases, even expand the services we are providing.

Christoph Kleinsorg, CIO, Swissport International (and SITA Board Director)

What has been your experience of SITA’s Aviation Blockchain Sandbox, and what do you hope to accomplish?

It is great to experience different players in the industry meeting with the shared purpose of improving the services we are providing to our respective customers.

The ongoing work in a joint approach together with the Swiss aviation ecosystem of Zurich Airport, Skyguide, Lufthansa/Swiss, SITA and Swissport will bring us more and valuable insights into how we can share data and generate new value for our passengers and improve security and services quality.

What other emerging technologies do you expect to be looking at for the years ahead, and why?

Well, a lot is emerging: Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Hypersurfaces Technologies, Intelligent Clothes, Augmented Reality and Cyber Glasses.

They could be major tools and technologies used in the future. However, we need to learn where and how these technologies can be used best. What are the advantages? But also, where are the drawbacks and risks to be considered - such as relearning, forgetting, control and so forth?


About the Industry Data Model agreement

Discussions between Swissport and SITA are aimed at providing Swissport with the right data to make intelligent, proactive decisions on day-to-day operations.

They are also to develop a broad framework of how this information can be shared across the industry. Key to the success of the Industry Data Model is to ensure all stakeholders – airlines, airports and ground handlers – have access to the same information.

By collecting and combining different sets of data, services can be designed based on the individual customer needs and processes will become even more efficient.

At the time of the June 2019announcement, Swissport International CIO Christoph Kleinsorg said: “Being a first-mover with SITA gives us and our customers the opportunity to benefit from data earlier. After we have built a strong IT infrastructure we can now further digitize our business processes, adding value to the services we offer to our more than 850 customers every day.”

SITA offers quick and simple access to this air transport data through its networking and API capabilities.

By collating and analyzing a range of data streams using flight information, baggage and wait-time, the SITA-Swissport partnership aims to develop a standard format to securely share common data with the relevant stakeholders, while enriching these data streams to provide predictive analytics.

The data will help enhance cross-company services such as staff planning based on real-time data, measures to prevent delays, or door-to-door baggage services.

Using SITA’s Aviation Blockchain Sandbox, Swissport and SITA are also working with a range of airlines and airports to explore how blockchain can be used to securely share this common data.

Both Swissport and SITA are well placed to drive a data framework for further discussion in the industry. Today, SITA shares and bridges 60% of the air transport industry’s operational data, handling 3.9 billion business and mission-critical messages each year.

At the same, Swissport is responsible for managing the passenger and cargo operations of hundreds of airlines across 300 airports in 50 countries.

Subscribe to the Air Transport IT Review

About Swissport

SITA member Swissport is the world's largest provider of ground and cargo handling services in the aviation industry. The company provides ground services on behalf of some 700 client-companies and handles around 224 million passengers and 3.9 million flights per year. The company operates 120 warehouses and moves approximately four million tonnes of cargo. With a workforce of around 55,000 personnel, Swissport is active at more than 255 stations in 44 countries across five continents.