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Big Data in the Airline Industry

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 2565 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Section One:

My Focus for the Data Value Map:

For the purpose of this assignment I have chosen to discuss the Big Data projects in the airline industry/ More specifically I have chosen a project that was carried out by British Airways (BA) in 2012. The project was most commonly known as “Know Me”. Simply, it is an initiative to try boost customer service within the airline. According to Jo Broswell, head of customer analysis in British Airways, they are simply trying to “recreate the feeling of recognition you get in a favourite restaurant when you’re welcomed there” (TechCrunch, 2018). Before this, BA had very little emphasis on customers. They had a loyalty scheme in place in which frequent flyers could collect points on purchases through British Airways. These points could then be saved and used to purchase flights. They needed to find a way of centralizing customers in order to increase customer satisfaction and to boost the likelihood of customers returning.

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Big Data in Airline Companies

In modern times the airline industry uses big data in numerous different ways. It is no longer enough for airline companies to only focus on the process of getting the aircraft from one destination to another. They have begun utilizing big data to increase business efficiencies. Airlines use terabytes of data in order to get the most out of every single process, from increasing fuel efficiency to aircraft safety to customer sales. There are not many airlines that do not utilize big data in some way. While much of the data collected by airlines focuses on what happens in and around planes, there are equally big gains to be made on the other side of the gate.

Data Value Map

The Data Value Map will allow me to have a better understanding of how data is used in British Airways project “Know Me”. I will go through each layer of the Data Value Map and try to reveal the different aspects of the data in the project. I am going to assess the existing data process that British Airways have in place and try to gain a better understanding of whether they are efficiently using the data they acquire through how they integrate, analyse and deliver the data. I want to establish whether I believe British Airways are using their data efficiently and to the best of their abilities or not.

Section Two:

Method used for the Data Value Map

The are numerous ways to use the Data Value Map framework. Because I am using this framework as part of an individual assignment, I used the Data Value Map individually and all information within the Data Value Map I have found and entered myself. To begin I found the project I wanted to use as part of the assignment. I wanted to choose a project that specifically used data rather than using a company overall. The “Know Me” project by British Airways is using numerous amounts of customers data to try make customers more central is the business processes.

I began researching the project and found numerous articles relating to the project and to British Airways. I took each section of the Data Value Map separately and began finding words I thought fitted into the Map. For each section I had to complete various articles into the “Know Me” project to find the way data was used. Some of the articles I found included Marketing Week’s “Know your customers: case studies from BA, The Guardian and Milka, CIO2CIO’s “Big Data at British Airways” and Essential Retail’s “British Airways: the journey to personalisation”.

I then roughly filled out a Data Value Map using the words I took from the articles that I felt helped understand the data process of British Airways. The business value of the data process became apparent from the beginning, similarly acquisition. The delivery was simply done by the iPads that were used by the employees.

I had difficulty finding information regarding the integration and analysis phases. After various articles, I came across information about the company, Opera Solution LLC. BA used this company as an analytical software tool to process all their data. I began looking more into Opera Solutions and how they worked with BA to complete their data process. Data Behaviours was the main part of the Data Value Map that I struggled with. I had difficulty understanding what it is meant by data behaviours or data governance. I was trying to tie it into the project I was using as a basis but struggled in doing so.

Section Three:

Business Value:

For this section of the Data Value Map, I found various benefits the project could bring to the company. By centralizing customers, BA ensure that the customers enjoy their experience with the airline. Employees can build a relationship with customers and give their customers complete satisfaction in terms of a comfortable and safe journey when they travel. The goal was to understand customers better than any competing airline (Shilling, 2018). By centralizing customers, they are enticing more customers to travel with them and encouraging people to return to the airline.


Mainly they use the information given by a customer when they sign up for the loyalty scheme already in place in BA to acquire their data. They also monitor the online behaviour and buying habits of the customers.  Along with all this information, they complete their own research. Mainly this consists of Googling the most loyal customers and finding Google Images of them to use as facial recognition for when the customer enters the airport/aircraft “Using iPads and even looking up passengers’ pictures on Google Images, BA is giving its staff the equipment to seek out passengers proactively” (Allchin, 2018).


As part of this integration BA used Opera Solution LLC. Opera Solution are an analytical and technical company that mainly focus on Big Data.


I focused the analysis stage on how Opera Solutions LLC use the data, which they receive from BA and the data they find themselves. From the research I have done on Opera Solutions I found that they use a combination of machine learning, advanced predictive analytics and human expertise to analyse any data that they have. According to CEO of Opera Solutions, Arnab Gupta, it previously took six to nine months to build a single analytical application at BA, but now they can do it in two to three weeks (CIO2CIO, 2018).


The main format for delivering this data used by BA is through an application which is on iPads which every member of staff in BA is given. On this iPad the employees were able to have a seating plan of the aircraft on their flight. Along with this they will also be able to see customer profiles of the customers on the flight. CIO2CIO.me stated that “The airline has loaded iPads with the travel itinerary, complaint history, and frequent flyer status of high-spending passengers and handed these iPads to about 2,000 front-line employees” (CIO2CIO, 2018).

Data Behaviours:

Scalability is a very important aspect of the British Airways because of their ever-growing customer basis. They must be continuously adding new customers data and taking the data of customers that no longer are frequent flyers.

From completing this section, it is clear that BA do not have much completed in the line of data governance. They recently have come under fire for a breach in GDPR regulation when their data being held on hundreds of thousands of customers was stolen. They were the first high-profile company that GDPR effected.

Data Creators:

I believe there are two creators of data within the “Know Me” project in British Airways. The first is the customers themselves. By interacting with BA in some way, either by signing up to their loyalty scheme or simply purchasing a ticket, the data is kept for the purpose of the project. The other data creator is the employees of British Airways. It was made clear in the articles I read about the “Know Me” project that the employees were given the responsibility of searching for image data that could be used for facial recognition. The employees use these images so that they can approach customers as they arrive at the terminal or plane (TechCrunch, 2018).

Data Users:

The main user of the data used in the “Know Me” project is the employees of British Airways. IPad’s are used by staff to view the integrated and analysed data for various reasons. Some of these reasons include, customer recognition or seating plans or even viewing customer profiles.

Easier Flights for Both Customer and Employees

Brand Loyalty

Improve Customer Centricity

Remember Personal Preferences of Customers

Increased Sales for Airline

Customer Satisfaction

Better Customer Relationship

Machine Learning

Application Viewed On iPads

Loyalty Information

Analytics Software by Opera Solutions

Advanced Predictive Analytics

Online Customer Behaviour

Aircraft Seating Plans


British Airways Employees

Customer Buying Habits

Human Expertise

British Airways Employees

Customer Profiles

Employee Research

Privacy Policies Available Online


Section Four:

For this section I am going to reflect both on the “Know Me” projects use of data and the resulting Data Value Map.

Resulting Impact

In terms of the “Know Me” project and their data process which I have identified for the purpose of the Data Value Project, I have discovered many benefits and problems with how they use their data. One of the benefits of their data process is their obvious focus on customers. To become a successful and well-known airline company, they must always focus on customers’ wants and needs. By utilising the data at their disposal, from customer loyalty schemes or online behaviours, they have found a way of centralizing customers and creating processes that put customers at the forefront of everything.

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Today, however, more people are becoming aware of the problems that begin to emerge when a company hold your personally identifiable data. From doing my research and completing the Data Value Map, it is apparent that BA have very little in the way of security set up for the data. This became apparent when they had a breach in their data in 2018 which affected hundreds of thousands of customers. Due to new legislation that has come into effect in Europe, BA had to pay fines due to breach of this legislation and compensation to any customers affected.

The Data Value Map as a framework gave me greater insight into the data processes of British Airways. By focusing more on the data within the company and not on the technologies, I have a better understanding of how effective the data itself can be. The Map also gave me a better understanding of data as a whole and how it breaks up into every aspect of business process.

Future Action

From completing the Data Value Map into the “Know Me” project I have found a few actions I believe British Airways should follow. Firstly, they should begin a security process for their data. They must ensure they abide by the new GDPR legislation to avoid future fines. They must also avoid any more breaches in their data which can be helped by having a security process in place. One way could be not allowing as many employee’s access to the data.

Another action I believe they should follow from my analysis using the Data Value Map is to put more emphasis on data governance legislation. They do not have much completed in these lines according to my research. I had difficulties finding any information regarding this section of the Data Value Map.

Overall, I believe the data process that BA have in place in good. They use their data effectively in terms of boosting their company and their sales. However, from the Data Value Map it is clear that they are lacking in areas beyond just finding and delivering the data. They don’t put emphasis on the aftermath of the project and how their data will be secured and used.


  • TechCrunch. (2018). British Airways Borders On Creepy With “Know Me” Google Identity Check. [online] Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2012/07/05/british-airways-borders-on-creepy-with-know-me-google-identity-check/?guccounter=1 [Accessed 6 Nov. 2018].
  • Shilling, H. (2018). Big Data Takes the Travel Industry in New Direction. [online] Blog.operasolutions.com. Available at: http://blog.operasolutions.com/bid/311798/big-data-takes-the-travel-industry-in-new-direction [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
  • Allchin, J. (2018). Know your customers: case studies from BA, The Guardian and Milka – Marketing Week. [online] Marketing Week. Available at: https://www.marketingweek.com/2012/07/01/know-your-customers-case-studies-from-ba-the-guardian-and-milka/ [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
  • CIO2CIO, A. (2018). Big Data At British Airways. [online] Cio2cio.me. Available at: http://www.cio2cio.me/big-data-at-british-airways.html [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].


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