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  December 25th, 2017 | Written by

The VIP Treatment for Business Travelers

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  • A growing number of airlines use data analytics to smooth the way for priority customers.
  • Air Canada feeds the gamut of customer service data into Teradata.
  • Air Canada measures passenger touchpoints from scanning of boarding passes to baggage delivery.

If you travel business class and have been made to feel like a VIP—have you ever wondered how the airlines do it?

A growing number of airlines use data analytics to smooth the way—especially for their “priority customers.” Air Canada has had a relationship with Teradata, the database and analytics company, going back over ten years. But Air Canada is not the only airline that uses Teradata capabilities; Lufthansa, Qantas, British Air, United Airlines, LAN Chile, Sabre, and Southwest are among the other carriers thart are customers of the tech company.

In the case of Air Canada, customer service data that is fed into Teradata runs the gamut, from the method of check in to the end of the travel and going through customs. The airline measures all passenger touchpoints through surveys, scanning of boarding passes, the time it takes to check in, and to the time it takes for baggage to be delivered, enter those into Teradata and do a monthly review, including a meeting with all stakeholders.

“After that,” said Catherine Brassard, senior director operations excellence and continuous improvement at Air Canada, “if there are items that require additional work, we take that back to business units and identify different opportunities for improvements. We get all branches together for process planning and operational improvement. It may require work with airport authorities or government agencies to improve the situation from a from customer sentiment perspective.”

Baggage delivery is a case in point for improved service for priority passengers. Air Canada used to have people sitting at baggage carousels measuring how long it takes bags to be unloaded to see whether we are performing to the airline’s standard. That data now comes directly from airport authorities.

Air Canada’s standard, by the way, is 15 minutes for the first bag to appear and 30 minutes for the last bag for narrowbody aircraft, 50 minutes for widebody aircraft.

“Last bag performance is very good, but fairly flat,” said Brassard. “First bag has seen great improvement—up 10 percentage points over last 12 months and up 25 points over the last 24 months.”

Moving toward real-time data feeds is another project Air Canada is pursuing with Teradata. For example, flight attendants now enter data for aircraft conditions such as broken seats directly into the system. “This used to be logged manually in a book,” Brassard noted.

The airline has also created key performance indicators, and users can track their performance through Teradata’s business intelligence capabilities. “Users are pulling hourly data to see if they are meeting standards,” said Brassard. “If a customer is inconvenienced at one touchpoint, such as at check in, we want to see what can we do at next the touchpoint to recover from that process.”

The effort extends also to aircraft management through the analysis of fuel data and aircraft movement and maintenance, noted Vinoth Yoganathan, Air Canada’s manager of business intelligence.

Air Canada has also put all kinds of dashboards in place to facilitate flight operations and make better tactical decisions. “If we have to consider canceling a flight because we don’t have enough equipment,” Brassard explained, “we take into consideration how many VIP and priority customers are on that flight.”

“We are balancing customer and financial impact to make the best decision we can for Air Canada and our customers,” she added. “It’s really become more about protecting the brand and serving our customers with dignity and respect.”