Sky-High Insights: How Big Data Elevates the Aviation Industry to New Heights

Daniel Thyrring18 Aug 23 • 8 min read

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Sky-High Insights How Big Data Elevates the Aviation Industry to New Heights

Did you know that the aviation sector exhibits one of the smallest profitability margins of all industries? With just a 1% average profit margin across companies in the space, finding new and innovative ways to increase profitability has always been a priority. However, the industry has dealt with some severe setbacks. The recent global pandemic adversely affected aviation companies, resulting in $372 billion in revenue losses in 2020 alone, mostly due to 2 billion fewer people flying.

While these numbers continue to creep back up to ‘normal’ figures, it’s left a sour and unnerving taste in the mouth of many organizations. This has led to many asking the question “how can we open new revenue streams?” in order to increase profit margins. 

And this is where leveraging big data analytics can lend a helping hand. So, lets answer the question, how big data in aviation is transforming the industry.

Common Aviation Challenges

Big data has emerged as a game-changer across various industries, but its impact on the aviation sector has been particularly profound. The aviation industry, with its complex operations and vast amounts of data, stands to benefit significantly from the insights and analytics offered by utilizing big data. This transformative technology has revolutionized how aviation companies conduct business, enabling them to not only bolster their revenue streams but also enhance the overall customer experience.

However, before exploring some of the advantages that big data brings, it is essential to first understand the common challenges that many aviation companies face.

One of the biggest hurdles that airlines face is the staggering cost of fuel. Undetermined fuel consumption accounts for a staggering 17% of all airline costs on a per-flight basis. Without accurate data and analytics to optimize fuel usage, airlines struggle to strike a balance between operational efficiency and cost savings. This lack of fuel consumption visibility not only hampers profitability but also has a significant environmental impact. Leveraging big data analytics means that aviation companies can gain insights into fuel consumption patterns, optimize flight routes, and make data-driven decisions that lead to substantial cost reductions.

Aircraft maintenance is another critical area where big data can play a pivotal role. Making educated guesses or relying on outdated maintenance schedules can result in substantial financial losses for airlines. Without access to real-time data and analytics, airlines may perform unnecessary maintenance tasks or miss critical maintenance needs. This creates a vicious cycle of wasted resources, increased downtime, and diminished revenue. By harnessing the power of big data, aviation companies can employ predictive maintenance models that utilize real-time sensor data to identify potential issues, proactively schedule maintenance, and optimize the lifespan of aircraft components. As a result, airlines benefit from minimizing costly disruptions, improving operational efficiency, and maximizing revenue generation.

Alongside this, the problem of misplaced customer baggage represents a significant headache for both passengers and airlines alike. When luggage goes astray, it not only causes distress to travelers but also imposes financial burdens on airlines. The process of replacing lost or misplaced items can cost airlines hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per incident. Inefficiencies in baggage handling systems, coupled with limited visibility into the movement of luggage, contribute to this persistent challenge. However, big data analytics can revolutionize baggage management by providing real-time tracking and monitoring capabilities. Advanced algorithms are available and data-driven insights, so airlines can optimize their baggage handling processes, improve tracking accuracy, and significantly reduce the incidence of lost or misplaced luggage. Again, this not only enhances the customer experience but also leads to substantial cost savings.

Collectively, these common challenges translate into narrow profit margins for aviation companies. However, the advent of big data presents a promising solution. The aviation industry can overcome these hurdles and propel itself toward increased profitability and operational excellence by harnessing the potential of data analytics.

Big Data in Aviation

Big data, analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have become vital tools in the aviation industry, revolutionizing operations, generating new revenue streams, and reducing overall costs. This powerful combination of technologies is reshaping the way airlines operate, delivering significant benefits across various aspects of the industry.

Lower Fuel Costs

One area where big data plays a crucial role is in optimizing fuel costs for airlines. By gathering and processing vast volumes of data, airlines can analyze fuel consumption patterns and make informed decisions. Likewise, the integration of IoT sensors into aircrafts provides real-time data on factors such as wind speed, temperature, plane weight, and fuel consumption. Together, this comprehensive data allows airlines to paint a precise picture of the amount of fuel needed for each flight, minimizing waste and reducing costs. The ability to optimize fuel usage not only improves financial performance but also contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing carbon emissions.

Predictive Maintenance

Airlines can achieve substantial cost savings through the implementation of predictive maintenance, made possible by big data analytics. By analyzing historical data, airlines can accurately predict the maintenance needs of their aircrafts. This approach is similar to the personalized recommendations on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, where customers are shown products based on their previous purchases. In the aviation industry, predictive maintenance enables airlines to identify potential issues before they become critical, optimizing maintenance schedules, and avoiding unnecessary part replacements. This not only reduces downtime, but also improves operational efficiency, and significantly lowers maintenance costs. Airlines can optimize the lifespan of aircraft components, maximize their usage, and minimize unexpected disruptions.

Superior Customer Service

Big data also plays a crucial role in enhancing the customer experience. Real-time baggage status updates are now possible by simply sharing airlines’ internal data on customers’ bags through mobile apps or tracking systems. Passengers can easily track their baggage and receive notifications, alleviating anxiety and frustration caused by misplaced or lost items. 

Moreover, IoT sensors or “data beacons” can be deployed within airports, utilizing augmented reality technology to track passengers’ locations. By providing personalized guidance and assistance, airlines can enhance the customer journey, improve navigation within the airport, and offer a seamless travel experience. These advancements not only improve customer satisfaction but also contribute to increased loyalty and positive brand perception.

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Making the Most of Big Data

To fully leverage the potential that big data analytics and IoT offer to the aviation industry, it is crucial to understand that implementation alone is not enough. The success of these technologies hinges on having the right people and processes in place to extract maximum value from the available data.

Data Management

A critical aspect of harnessing the power of data is effective data management. Aviation companies must establish robust systems to collect, store, and analyze data for business purposes. This involves defining data collection methods, ensuring data integrity throughout its lifecycle, and implementing efficient data storage and retrieval mechanisms.

Streamlining data management processes means that airlines can optimize the utilization of data assets and drive informed decision-making across the organization.

Data Governance

Data governance is another vital component in the data-driven aviation landscape. Internal standards and policies need to be established to safeguard data integrity, privacy, and security. This ensures that data is protected from unauthorized access and used appropriately by authorized personnel.

Implementing comprehensive data governance frameworks enables airlines to maintain the trust of their stakeholders and ensure compliance with relevant data regulations and industry standards.

Data Quality

Data quality is of paramount importance in the aviation industry. Merely having access to vast amounts of data is insufficient if it lacks accuracy, completeness, and value. Airlines must invest in data quality assurance measures to ensure that the data they rely on is reliable and trustworthy.

Enforcing data validation processes, eliminating duplicates, and resolving inconsistencies, can enhance data quality and allow airlines to confidently base their decisions on accurate insights.

The Importance of a Data-Driven Culture

However, beyond these technical considerations, the most critical aspect for airlines embarking on a big data journey is the establishment of a data-driven culture. This means fostering an organizational mindset where every individual understands the importance of data, actively participates in data initiatives, and reaps the rewards of data-driven decision-making. From managers to directors and stakeholders, everyone must embrace the value of data and work collaboratively to achieve shared data goals.

Instilling a data-driven culture provides airlines with the foundational tools to unlock the full potential of their data assets and drive innovation and growth throughout the organization.

For the aviation industry to truly capitalize on big data analytics and IoT, it is vital to go beyond technological implementation. Effective data management, robust data governance, and a focus on data quality are crucial elements in maximizing the value derived from data. Furthermore, fostering a data-driven culture ensures that the benefits of data-driven decision-making are realized across all levels of the organization.

By embracing these principles, the aviation industry can harness the transformative power of big data and IoT to elevate its operations, enhance customer experiences, and achieve sustainable growth in an increasingly data-centric world.


Big data is already transforming the aviation industry, and with the right data strategies in place, airlines can add new revenue streams or increase existing ones, by optimizing costs and improving operational processes.

Exmon is a company that’s already helping aviation specialists to unlock the power of their data.

The robust platform boasts data management, governance, and quality functions that help airlines to ensure their data is present, correct, compliant and ready for analyzing. Together, this enables airlines to make better use of their data, to drive growth and revenue.

Readers who want to learn more about how Exmon’s data platform is already helping companies in the aviation space, should read the recent Air Atlanta case study.

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