Modern data strategy – Elevating the airport and airline industry

by | Sep 25, 2023 | Airlines, Airports, Digital Transformation, News

In today’s digital age, data is the lifeblood of innovation. The airport and airline industry, with its intricate operations and vast customer touch points, can create lasting value by harnessing the power of data to improve the traveler’s experience, reduce operational costs, and increase revenue. In our increasingly digital world, unlocking the value in data requires companies adopt a modern data strategy to become more data-driven. Let’s delve deeper into what it means to be a data-driven organization and its implications for airlines and airports.


What is a data-driven organization?

A data-driven organization must do more than collect vast amounts of data. They must:

  • Harness data as an asset
  • Drive sustained innovation using these assets
  • Create actionable insights to supercharge the customer experience

Airports and airlines recognize the importance of data to enhance customer experiences. They’ve shifted from traditional brick-and-mortar activities to omni-channel experiences, driven by evolving customer expectations.

New technologies, like generative AI, are challenging us all to think bigger about what is possible to meet traveler’s expectations. Imagine an airport where real-time insights can predict flight delays, optimize ground operations, and personalize passenger experiences. That’s the power of being data-driven.

By adopting the right mindset, data-driven organizations:

  • Create compelling new customer experiences
  • Unlock new revenue streams
  • Differentiate themselves from competitors

Ryanair, for example, uses data to optimize the supply of food and beverages on 3,000 daily flights with a goal to make sure “no one is disappointed” according to Aoife Greene, Ryanair’s deputy director ancillary and head of retail. Ryanair uses passenger nationality, flight time, flight destination, and time-of-day to predict the right in-flight product mix to delight customers and improve revenue.


Creating a data flywheel with data products

We suggest using the concept of a “data flywheel” to Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Fast to power new experiences and capabilities. It’s an iterative cycle where organizations focus on solving customer challenges using data products. Data products can be thought of as an evolution of traditional data sets. They represent a curated, managed, and trusted presentation of data or insights for a specific purpose.

In the same way we shop grocery aisles and ecommerce sites for physical products, data products are easily discoverable and accessible by anyone with access rights. For example, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and Ryanair worked together to make MAG’s airport gate change events available as a data product to improve the customer experience. The real-time data product ensures gate change information is aligned across MAG’s airport flight information display screens and Ryanair’s customer facing applications.

In the broader context, data products and adopting the flywheel approach can help companies use data to improve use cases spanning the end-to-end traveler experience and operations. For example, data can be used to enhance and personalize in-flight entertainment, to streamline baggage handling and visibility, or even optimize flight paths for fuel efficiency based on weather conditions.

Just as other industries are embracing experimentation to test consumer reactions to new features and experiences, airports and airlines can adopt a similar approach. By continuously designing experiments, such as A/B or multivariate tests, and leveraging data-driven insights, they can stay attuned to changing passenger expectations and innovate accordingly.

This is the power of the “data flywheel”.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) use the flywheel as an integral part of our AWS Data Driven Everything (D2E) program that helps customers unlock value using data. D2E is used by hundreds of customers to activate priority use cases using the flywheel and Amazon’s working backward approach. By continuously collecting feedback and iterating, organizations can create data products that add value consistently and repeatedly for priority use cases.


Building a modern data community

At the heart of a data-driven organization is the Modern Data Community that supports empowering employees with data-driven insights and decision-making capabilities. By pushing decision rights to the edges and promoting a culture of experimentation, airports and airlines can foster agility and innovation.

The community is comprised of three stakeholder groups. First, data producer teams are often aligned with business domains (flight operations for example) sharing data in the form of products and ensuring their quality. Next, data consumer teams may use a collection of data products to gain insights. For example, marketing consumers may use products containing traveler’s past purchases, booking preferences, and customer service interactions to fine tune customer segmentation models.

Consumers drive the creation of new insights and innovations using data and often become data producers by creating new, higher-order data products. In the marketing example, the fine tuned customer segmentation model can be published as a higher-order data product for use by consumers.

Last, data platform teams form the backbone that operate the marketplace ensuring data products are accessible, reliable, and secure. They can use tools like Amazon Lake Formation and Amazon DataZone to facilitate efficient and secure sharing of data products across the organization.


What about data governance

Being data-driven doesn’t mean compromising on governance. Modern data strategies balance innovation with compliance. Tools like Amazon Macie, which uses machine learning to discover and protect sensitive data, ensure that organizations can innovate responsibly. AWS Clean Rooms helps customers and their partners more easily and securely collaborate and analyze their collective datasets—without sharing or copying one another’s underlying data—protecting personal identifiable information (PII). For the aviation industry, where safety and compliance are paramount, achieving a balance between security and collaboration is crucial.



The aviation industry is on the cusp of a data revolution. From enhancing passenger experiences to optimizing operations, the possibilities are endless. As technology evolves, airports and airlines that embrace a data-driven approach will lead the way, setting new standards for efficiency, customer satisfaction, and innovation. Generative AI, for example, is a transformative technology that requires a modern data strategy and foundational ecosystem to realize its full benefits.

By understanding the principles of a modern data strategy, the data-driven organization, and leveraging modern data platforms, the airport and airline industry can soar to new heights, delivering unparalleled value to passengers and stakeholders alike.


To learn more, join myself (Brian Buch) and Craig Suckling, AWS Global Lead of Data Strategy, at the World Aviation Festival September 27-28 in Lisbon, Portugal to discuss how a modern data strategy can help maximize value using data.

We will co-host a workshop on September 27 with Ryanair and Massimo Morin at 10:30 and we will also be available for meetings at Booth 1-180.


Article by Brian Buch, Principal Analytics Strategist, Amazon Web Services