Airlines aiming for Total Revenue Optimization need intelligent solutions. While artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms promise better predictive capabilities, these systems can only really shine when coupled with the flexibility and human touch of a data analyst.
Commercial airlines and other travel and transportation companies face significant challenges in managing pricing, demand and logistics in today’s volatile environment. This summer’s travel disruptions have exposed the potential for temporary hiccups in post-pandemic operations that can have a drastic impact on customer satisfaction and revenue opportunities.
As travelers’ patience dwindles, airlines need to strengthen their people, processes and technology. By incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) solutions into processes within their organizations, airlines can leverage their data, analyst and revenue management capabilities to capitalize on new business fundamentals in this changing environment.
“Artificial intelligence does not replace the airline data analyst job,” said Alex Mans, founder and CEO of FLYR Labs, a technology company driving commercial optimization for airlines. “But it changes their role and hopefully unlocks their potential to increase sales and improve operational efficiencies.”
Intelligence on demand
Airline data can be difficult to analyze, but artificial intelligence makes it easier. It’s impossible for humans to manually process all the information airlines collect from digital sources, but deep learning neural networks can provide effective forecasts that give analysts the confidence to make better decisions.
“In the past, the leading forecast types were linear, regression-based models, where analysts look at very concentrated patterns from year to year,” Mans said. “The problem is that at any given point in time there simply isn’t enough data on any single flight to make accurate forecasts in a volatile environment. Traditional systems are really bad at determining whether booking a seat on a particular flight has a meaningful impact on the outcome.”
To support deep learning algorithms, airlines feed neural networks with vast amounts of historical data — such as bookings, searches, events, promotions, and competitive pricing — resulting in forecasts that analysts can better understand about future revenue and occupancy performance Keep me up to date.
“You can compare how actual performance is performing versus projected data as the departure date approaches,” Mans said. “The real value comes when analysts with a platform like ours can trust the forecast and start using it to make strategic decisions, rather than treating it as a loose guide.”
Unleash the full potential of analysts
According to Mans, artificial intelligence should be thought of as an airline data analyst’s smart sidekick – it does not replace the analyst’s work, but rather enhances the analyst’s ability to make coordinated operational decisions in areas where automation alone is not sufficient.
“Historically, analysts didn’t have accurate forecasts, so most of their decisions were based on instinct,” Mans said. “Moreover, they didn’t have good user interfaces to process this data. We create much better forecasts, enable smarter workflows, and provide a dedicated user interface where analysts can easily access and filter the data and then use the resulting information. With better utilization and revenue forecasts at every level of granularity across the network, they can do amazing things.”
For example, months in the future, if an analyst sees a cluster of flights with a forecast load factor of 99 percent, he can notify his planning colleagues and propose a capacity expansion. For most airlines, where functions within organizations are typically isolated, this type of cross-functional collaboration between commercial teams is not common.
“All it takes to break down these silos is for other teams to have access to the same information that the revenue management team has access to,” Mans said. “At the end of the day, different departments are trying to achieve the same outcomes: maximizing revenue and containing costs.”
In addition to the role of gatekeeper of this information, the role of the analyst will evolve to support a variety of critical functions across the enterprise.
“For one thing, they can see around corners that the data itself can’t see,” Mans said. “The analyst may know that a flight plan change is imminent, but if that information isn’t passed back to our system, we have no idea. Artificial intelligence doesn’t know everything. Another thing to keep in mind is that optimizing for maximum sales isn’t always the goal. An airline entering a new market may want to pursue a non-revenue-optimized strategy focused on market control or market share, so the analyst is needed to refine this strategy. Or consider promotions – every airline runs countless promotions throughout the year, whether tied to their credit card program, specific travel destinations, or other variables that require the analyst to actively work with our platform and their marketing team to manage to get the best results.”
Leverage new business fundamentals
For airlines to weather the storm of today’s unprecedented industry disruption, dynamic pricing based on deep learning algorithms is essential. FLYR was designed to provide a unique platform to help airlines manage data, break through data silos with consistently accurate forecasts accessible to everyone in the organization and achieve end-to-end revenue management for all their products.
“Our mission is to help airlines effectively price everything they want to sell, including ancillary services like seat selection, extra baggage, priority boarding and other upsells,” Mans said. “FLYR’s operating system provides a vertically integrated SaaS platform for data management, forecasting, pricing, automation, business intelligence and reporting – including simulation and scenario assessment – while also removing limitations in e-commerce and fulfillment, thanks to acquisitions like Newshore so airlines can do things faster and do it more efficiently. This is what we are building as a company and this is the future of work in this industry.”
Join Alex Mans, Founder and CEO of FLYR for a webinar on October 19 at 11:00 am ET: “How Artificial Intelligence Is Reshaping the Travel Business”. Register today
For more information on how FLYR is helping airlines optimize their overall revenue, see their latest white paper with IATA.
This content was created jointly by FLYR and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.