Business intelligence

The seamless passenger journey hinges on better intelligence, analytics and smarter ways of working.

Access to quality data is the foundation of seamless travel. With passengers, airlines and airports united in wanting better services to support every aspect of the journey, the focus is on placing information at the fingertips of travelers and mobile workforces.

That means providing relevant and timely information at each step of the journey, which for all stakeholders involved in creating the travel experience means exploiting big data, analytics and intelligence in much more effective ways.


But to bring about improvements and best working practices between stakeholders, two evolutions are vital, according to a recent SITA paper, ‘Smart Thinking,’ which looks at the progress towards better business intelligence for airlines and airports.

“One essential evolution is the ability of airlines and airports to make the fullest use of the latest intelligence inherent in their operational and passenger systems,” says SITA’s Nigel Pickford, Director of Market Insight.

“That means improving the quality of the passenger’s journey while at the same time maximizing their value to the business. “

“The other,” he says, “is the continued rise of intelligent, or smart, airports. These airports are the ones able to track, manage and share in real-time key information about all of their assets.”


Both evolutions promise to have a big impact on passenger experiences as well as on the operational and commercial effectiveness of airlines and airports. The good news is that there’s clear alignment among the aspirations of passengers, airlines and airports. All parties share a common goal to smoothen the journey process.

Passengers are eager to turn to their smartphones and tablets for latest information while they’re on the move, even though mobile has yet to infiltrate all areas of the journey.

As many as 69% would use a smartphone for flight disruption information; 72% would do so for flight status updates. The percentage figures for those who’d be looking for real time baggage status and fares information reach well into the eighties.


For their part, airlines and airports are forging ahead with IT investments to move ever closer to seamless travel, a major driver being to improve the quality of the passenger experience, with smartphone apps for passengers and mobile services for staff high on the agenda.

The next three years will see ever more initiatives to deliver information to passengers about flight and bag status notifications as well as navigation and way-finding at the airport, including status information such as queue times and distance to the gate in real time, says the ‘Smart Thinking’ paper.

Mobilized staff

“The trend is positive from the perspective of airline and airport staff, too,” says Pickford. “Nearly all airports plan to give their staff access to key information via mobile devices in the next three years.”

At the same time, airlines have made great strides in providing electronic flight bags, while over 70% of them plan to provide mobile services to operational staff by 2016, including cabin crew, ground operations, crew rostering, aircraft maintenance and engineering staff.

The trend is reflected in the popularity of solutions such as SITA’s CrewTablet, an end-to-end mobility solution for cabin crew, with customers including Etihad Airways. The demand for CrewTablet continues to be high, with SITA’s mobility team deploying multiple customer projects across the world.


Yet the reality is that the smartphone apps for passengers and mobile services for staff need quality data from multiple sources, and “that demands cooperation,” says Pickford.

“If airlines want to give passengers information about bag loading status information, for instance, they need real-time access to partners involved in the process.”

For many, due to system incompatibilities and lack of data standards, the goal of creating meaningful insight from multiple sources remains a big challenge, as results from SITA’s Airline and Airport IT Trends Surveys show.

Half way there

In total, 100% of airlines and 90% of airports are investing in business intelligence solutions to provide the intelligent information across their operations.

But even though business intelligence tops airline and airport agendas, there’s still some way to go, according to the ‘Smart Thinking’ paper, which cites a new SITA Business Intelligence (BI) Maturity Index to track airlines’ and airports’ BI progress.

Taking into account data reliability, infrastructure, the ability to provide meaningful data and governance, the paper concludes that ‘no airport or airline appears to have reached more than the half-way mark on the index’.

Pickford again: “Our research clearly shows that the move to smartphone apps and mobile services is well underway. But many of the services that airlines and airports are planning are heavily dependent on their ability to provide more meaningful data and insight - providing passengers and staff the right information at the right time.

“Efforts are being made across the industry to collaborate and SITA’s Business Intelligence Maturity Index will benchmark the progress.”

For airlines, business intelligence centers on having better knowledge about their passengers. The more an airline deals with and learns about passengers, the more it can market to them based on their interests, preferences and booking behaviors.

Understanding individual passenger requirements and acting on them engenders greater loyalty, a principle behind SITA’s own Horizon next generation passenger services system.

For airports, business intelligence is all about managing and sharing real-time information about all their assets. They optimize airport processes and collaborative decision-making for all stakeholders – in a predictive environment that uses IT infrastructure intelligently.


“The bottom line remains that seamless access to quality data is the engine of good business intelligence,” says Pickford. 

“That’s why SITA plays a large part in the industry’s efforts to establish data standards and ensure system compatibility, while also making the vision of the intelligent airport a reality, through a portfolio of passenger management, business intelligence and data analytics tools.”   

“But to fully exploit business intelligence it’s also important to have the necessary relationships with airports, airlines, governments and other stakeholders across the journey, to integrate processes and information airport-wide. SITA is unique in having these cross-industry relationships,” he concludes.

Driving forces

Business intelligence and analytics

  • The role of business intelligence and analytics in intelligent airports is critical. That’s why SITA continues to foster innovation and development in data mining, predictive analytics and location-based services to enhance airport operations, passenger flow monitoring and customer service.
  • It involves working with the industry to harness data and turn it into actionable intelligence on which analytics can be performed. That demands gathering data from across financial, commercial and operational systems, as well as increasingly tapping into big data and social media.
  • SITA’s next generation Airport Business Intelligence plays a key role, giving airports a consolidated view of data for quality maintenance and self-service business intelligence.
  • As a comprehensive airport-specific business intelligence and analytics tool, it enables airports to consolidate data in near real-time, manage data quality and enable rapid analysis, timely intervention and a more focused strategic response to opportunities and challenges.


Predictive analytics

Business intelligence combined with predictive analysis promises a future of great insights for the air transport industry.  

That combination will underpin truly effective collaborative decision-making, while enabling the industry to become proactive in dealing with events such as bad weather and mechanical failure.

That’s good news for passengers as airlines will be better able to manage available resources to improve their experience. At the same time, airports will be able to increasingly optimize their infrastructures and space to improve services and revenues.

SITA is undertaking pioneering work in the area of predictive analytics and big data that will help the air transport industry to become more proactive in dealing with events as well as more meaningful in their interactions with passengers.

For more

Download SITA’s ‘Smart Thinking’ paper and find out more about business intelligence and stories from British Airways, Sky Airlines, as well as GRU– Sao Paulo, Quebec City, London City and Dublin Airports.

Read more about smart-thinking.

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