Digital Airlines: Developing Agility And Flexibility

Eva Roe

The airline world is changing. Customers today demand a better experience, and they’re willing to pay more for that experience. We know that 80% of airlines that invest in Internet of Things technology have seen increased revenue. We know that delays cost the industry $25 billion in a single year.

How can airlines avoid the problems that cause delays and lost revenue? One option is digitizing to minimize down time. Here’s a great example of how this works in the real world.

Digital airlines develop agility and flexibility for reliability

Delays can seem like a constant in air travel. But that constant can be reduced to improve customer experience. Here’s an example of how one small airline decided to digitize its fleet and operations to improve reliability. Its executives understood that taking these steps could reduce the effects of disruption.

The airline added sensors on the airplane to collect data. The sensors record telemetry, including vibrations, pressure, and temperatures. They also record fault codes to keep track of malfunctioning equipment. This information is recorded continuously to ensure that everything that can impact down time is tracked.

The airline has a flight scheduled from Chicago to Miami that is fully booked. As the airplane lands at the airport from Seattle, vibrations in the landing gear indicate that there may be a problem with the system. Sensors in the tire indicate that tire pressure may be low in one of the tires in that assembly.

The sensor data is analyzed in real time to keep track of asset health. It’s put into an analytics model to predict failures that could result in unplanned down time. The results help the system pinpoint the potential failure’s cause. It develops potential actions to address the problem and orders the spare parts that are needed.

The system determines that there is a problem with one of the tires and automatically deploys a maintenance worker in Chicago to inspect the tire and increase tire pressure. The maintenance worker sees that the tire is worn and has a slow pinhole leak. The worker replaces the tire, and the airplane is dispatched on time. The removed tire is placed in to the supply chain for repair, the repair facility is notified that defect part is inbound, and a serviceable replacement is dispatched automatically through the connected logistics network.

The order is fulfilled more quickly with the use of RFID tracking, which creates visibility in shipping. The appropriate maintenance worker is scheduled to make the repair. A schedule that minimizes down time is set. Necessary facility resources are reserved to streamline the repair process. This in turn minimizes the overall cost of the repair.

Once everything is in place, the worker is given a 3D image with work instructions. This speeds up the process and ensures correct procedures are in place to reduce errors. Work order cost data is recorded to keep everyone up to date on repair times and status. Managers can use mobile devices and cloud computing to stay on top of profitability and aircraft status.

As the aircraft pulls into the maintenance bay, the worker consults instructions provided on a tablet; further details are embedded if needed. The mechanic can track repair progress, and that information is available to maintenance and flight managers to help them estimate when the aircraft will be available again.

The worker’s data is also sent to accounting and payroll to track the costs of the repair. Because the repair was caught before it was necessary to shut down the aircraft, the airline saves money. It does need to pay for the new tire and the mechanic’s time, but it avoids customer complaints or expensive compensation.

By adding real-time data and analytics, the airline reduces delays, increases reliability, improves safety and asset availability, and makes it easier to maintain the aircraft. It has improved profitability and reduced risk through improved reliability.

Every time an aircraft is grounded, an airline loses money. Data analytics can minimize or prevent flight delays because of unforeseen problems. This in turn lowers costs and improves aircraft availability. When it comes to a better travel experience, 68% of travelers are willing to pay more. Is your business ready to respond to that demand?

Analytics can help improve dependability and prevent problems that cause delays. Businesses that digitize see many fewer problems from market disruption. Many airlines have found a digital core supported by SAP HANA to be a solution to streamline their business. Where is your business going? Take a few minutes today to see what SAP has to offer your business, and ensure a better tomorrow.

For more insight on this digital age of airlines, see “Build a Better Customer Journey for the Digital Traveler.”


Eva Roe

About Eva Roe

Eva Roe is the Head of Airlines Solutions at SAP. She is responsible for developing a strategy for the industry working closely with customers and translating their requirements to marketable solutions. One focus area is defining how technology innovations become enablers for new business models and processes in the airline industry.