BLOG: EUREKA MOMENT IN THE SKY
Ideas typically come from pain points. We all have them. I wish I could invent a device to fold my laundry, writes Winnipeg Richardson International Airport’s vice president for aviation marketing, Scott Marohn.
Still haven’t made that machine yet. But that’s for another day. I am going to stick to air service development here. So, what was the issue and the innovation?
Sometimes your past experience leads you to a solution that overcomes a pain point. I came into the air service development role at Winnipeg Airports Authority a few years back and instantly found a pain point. Data wasn’t free flowing.
· Where are people flying?
· Flying to which destination?
· On what day of the week?
· Through what connect point?
· On which airline?
We subscribe to a system that provides this sort of data. There was just one problem; a three-month delay in getting up to date info.
I had executives coming to me asking how we were doing in the current month with respect to being on budget for passengers, and I couldn’t give them an accurate answer.
I would go on monthly calls with airlines asking them how Winnipeg was performing in their network with no context from any data I had in my hands.
It was time to be better. That’s when I sought out a data point. Baggage source messages (BSM).
This was new territory for Winnipeg. Up until 2011 when we opened our brand new airport, we had not required baggage sortation. We didn’t need to allocate bags to outbound carousels because each lane was a separate system.
Once we opened the terminal and began our subscription, we recognised that the data was invaluable. After months of massaging the data along with a good calibration and scaling plan, I could now begin to answer questions.
I could tell you with greater accuracy how originating Winnipeg passengers were making the trek to the Philippines or anywhere else, for that matter.
I knew what flights they were taking, how many passengers were on each flight number, and which airlines they were connecting on.
I could tell you how many people were connecting in Winnipeg to continue their travels to destinations beyond our airport, and on average, how long those connections were, and at what time on each day of the week.
I could even tell you how many people were taking flights to follow our local hockey team the Winnipeg Jets on road trips (and how they were getting there).
And I could tell you how they did it yesterday.
This gave me a clearer picture when I was talking to airlines. No longer did I have to ask them about their top 10 markets out of Winnipeg; I knew that already. The conversation was able to go deeper than just the usual high-level approach.
I could tell the executives how we were trending in the current month and what was happening with traffic as it happened.
One point of clarification; knowing where a passenger wants to go and how they got there is only one data point in a large pool of information. Average fares, QSI, stimulation, etc. are all important in their own right.
Once we recognised the power of the insights we had gathered, we began working on dashboards. We wanted to automate the process so that the data was readily available in a usable language. (Believe me, this has taken a long time. In fact, it’s still ongoing!)
In collaboration with GrayMatter, a company we had met through other operational dashboard work, we set out to develop a suite of turnkey solutions for others that might also have this pain point.
After months of planning and development, we created SkyEdge. This is a set of dashboards that can instantly provide access to insights for passenger traffic. The system ties into your BSM subscription and allows you to convert baggage info into a usable set of data points for passenger traffic.
We’re proud of the collaboration and being able to provide a solution to others that have shared this similar pain point.
Through this process I’ve learned that a thorough understanding of systems and data feeds within the organisation can help solve a pain point for an area in a different department. C
ollaborative multi-department discussions must take place in order to maximise the value of what is laying right under your nose.
Now if only I could find an algorithm for that laundry folder.