R.W. Mann & Co公司的行业分析师鲍伯•曼恩指出：“航空业是一个浸泡在数据中的行业，其中有大量数据是无组织的。直到最近，各大航空公司才能依靠大数据技术来“解决如何识别和提高旅客价值以及如何培养高价值的旅客等问题。”
大家可以在处理旅客行李方面清楚地看到大数据技术的效用。达美航空（Delta Air Lines）发言人保罗•斯科贝克说：“我们花费了好几年的努力，在行李跟踪上投入了数百万美元的资金。它是我们为旅客提供的核心幕后服务之一。”
When a customer checks into a flight with United Airlines UAL -0.30% , there is typically an array of potential add-on offers to navigate through: flight upgrades, access to the airline’s United Club, and more.
Under United’s old “collect and analyze” approach to data, the airline would use information about customers’ choices about those items, in aggregated fashion to “see what the most successful products were, and market with those [insights] in mind,” said Scott Wilson, the company’s vice president of e-commerce and merchandising.
That approach has changed. As of the beginning of this year, “collect, detect, act” is United’s new data-focused mantra, and it’s changing the way the airline serves its customers.
“Now we look at who the customer is and his or her propensity to buy certain products,” Wilson explained. More than 150 variables about that customer—prior purchases and previous destinations among them—are now assessed in real time to determine an individual’s likely actions, rather than an aggregated group of customers.
The result, delivered in about 200 milliseconds later, is a dynamically generated offer tailored to the individual. Its terms, on-screen layout, copy, and other elements will vary based on an individual’s collected data. For United, the refined approach led to an increase in year-over-year ancillary revenue of more than 15 percent, he said.
‘Airlines evolved big data’
Welcome to the big data era in the airline industry, which in many ways was one of its earliest participants.
“Airlines are awash in data, much of it unstructured,” said Bob Mann, an industry analyst with R.W. Mann & Co. But only recently have airlines been able to use big-data techniques “to solve, among other objectives, how to recognize and enhance customer value, and how to cultivate high-value customers,” he said.
“Airlines have always been very good at collecting data, but they haven’t always been good at using it,” United’s Wilson said. Now that the costs of storing and processing data have dropped—even as airlines collect more and more of it—it’s becoming easier for a company to act on it. At United, roughly a terabyte of customer data is floating around at any given time within its systems. “We don’t keep it all,” Wilson said. “We have to be selective about what we grab.” For the data that is selected, a real-time decision engine does the crunching to turn it into something useful.
It starts at the baggage carousel
One area in which the effects of big data technology are visible is in the handling of customers’ luggage. “We have over a number of years invested millions of dollars in baggage tracking,” said Paul Skrbec, a spokesman with Delta Air Lines. “That was one of those core, behind-the-scenes services for our customers.”
Millions of bags are checked each year with Delta DAL -0.33% —a total of 130 million are projected for 2014, Skrbec said—and “every customer has had the experience of boarding a plane after checking their bag and wondering if it was there.”