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Enabling informed, data-driven decision making   

Jean-Francois Morin, Portfolio Lead, SITA Advanced Data Services, understands the critical importance of planning and prediction. Providing data securely, conveniently and in a timely fashion is vital to the resilience and future agility of the air transport industry.

What do you find exciting about your area of work?  

SITA is a niche player, but we have a global presence. While I’m based in Geneva, I collaborate with people from Asia in the morning, with Europeans and people from the Middle East during the day, and with the Americans in the afternoon. Even going to the office in Geneva is a bit like traveling worldwide because I engage with all these people and customers from various parts of the world. That’s very fulfilling for me. On the technical side, my enthusiasm stems from taking over the new Advanced Data Services portfolio in 2023. I’m still learning about this portfolio, and that’s a big reason for being excited. 

What’s the focus of SITA Advanced Data Services? 

Our scope is data. We collect data – in all shapes and forms – and send it to our customers, who can then use this data. For instance, they can use the data to feed their mobile apps, show information on screen in the airport, provide boarding passes to passengers, and much more.  

The volume of data created and consumed around the world continues to expand at an exponential rate – already we know that the quantity of information being generated and consumed globally has grown from 2 zettabytes (the equivalent of a trillion gigabytes) in 2010 to a projected 181 zettabytes by 2025. Our role is to help channel that data to resolve industry challenges better, streamline the passenger experience and improve operational efficiencies. 

We have an unparalleled presence in airports. We collect data from airlines, airports and ground handlers. No other telco or service provider can access such detailed, real-time information about activities taking place at airports and in the air. Because of the full scope of data we gather from different sources and players, we are uniquely positioned to know what is happening with precision, so we can provide customers with precise insights into their operations and also predict what is going to happen. 

What sort of challenges are you helping airlines and airports solve currently? 

Bearing in mind that the air transport industry is highly regulated, time-sensitive and susceptible to disruptions and changes, customers are seeking a clear understanding of what will happen so they can plan better. If they don’t plan properly, it means delays and loss of money and it impacts reputation and passenger satisfaction. To plan, they need data. We help them meet this need because we collect data about plane movements, passenger movements and the weather, and we feed an airline’s operations center with information, as well as their mobile apps.  

Can you share examples of some SITA products customers leverage to help with planning? 

Two examples are our Wait Time and Flight Information data modules, which fall under the SITA Advanced Data Services product. A well-known US airline is using our Wait Time tool to deal with passenger delays by rebooking delayed passengers on another flight, unloading luggage and moving up passengers on the waiting list. This way, the airline can maximize its passenger load and avoid delays.  

SITA Advanced Data Services’ Flight Information offering provides comprehensive, daily flight information on status, arrivals and departures from airports worldwide. For instance, we can inform a specific impacted airline if a plane has departed late from Oslo and is going to arrive late in Geneva, so the airline can use that information to tell passengers that there is an expected 30-minute delay for the next flight departing from, say, Geneva to Prague. There is a big logistic impact for being late, but because of the information we provide, airlines can take action to prevent further delays by managing their slots with the airport, changing staffing plans, dealing with baggage offloading and other internal logistics. With changing weather patterns and the impact of climate change, we also provide information about things like hurricanes and snowstorms, which require additional logistics like the de-icing of planes. 

Easy access to flight information remains critical, but our SITA Advanced Data Services solution offers more. Several smaller airlines in regions like the US and Germany also use our data services to generate and share boarding passes with passengers through the airline’s mobile app or via email. Boarding passes are generated in line with the American Transportation Security Administration standard, saving smaller airlines the cost of having their own staff produce boarding passes.  

What plans are afoot to expand SITA’s Advanced Data Services offerings or introduce new features? 

As mentioned earlier, the more airlines and airports know, the better they can plan, inform their passengers and minimize the impact of the delay – or, ideally, prevent delays altogether. More and more customers are seeking a single source of truth – a single access point to trusted information – to achieve a comprehensive level of oversight and understanding. We provide this through our Application Programming Interface (API) platform. This platform serves as a convenient one-stop shop for all data integration needs. 

Our focus is progressively moving in the direction of providing predictive insights. We are constantly enhancing and training our data, injecting new sources and using sophisticated data algorithms to make predictions as precise as possible. We are looking at releasing products using these prediction algorithms such as a flight delay predictor and a passenger predictor.  

Airports are particularly interested in a passenger predictor tool to help them plan staff requirements for security and customer checkpoints that are based on passengers’ movements and delays because these factors directly impact airport resources.  

Furthermore, we also see a growing interest from adjacent markets, such as train and taxi companies, seeking access to flight delay and passenger information. We have a dedicated team actively working with these adjacent markets, and we are proud to have two cruise companies as customers already, both eager to show flight schedules to their transit passengers.  

It’s an exciting time for us as we continue to innovate and expand our offerings.