November 16, 2015 | Written by: Bryan O’Neil
Categorized: Big Data | Data Analytics
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Allegiant Travel has carved out a niche as an ultra-low-cost airline connecting medium-sized cities to popular vacation destinations. Now we’re undergoing a business transformation. We’re rapidly becoming an online travel agency, as well—helping our passengers find hotels, rent cars and arrange leisure activities.
Information technology is a critical piece of our core business and our transformation. We’re using big data analytics to improve operations and provide our passengers with more satisfying experiences on line and in the air.
In fact, we’re on the path to becoming what IBM CEO Ginni Rometty calls a “cognitive business.” We plan on tapping IBM Watson to help us ask and answer the right questions.
Allegiant aircraft on the tarmac in Las Vegas
When I arrived here 2 ½ years ago, we initially focused on improving the way we manage information. Our data was scattered all over the company. So the first step was to build a massive data repository where we placed all of our operational and customer-facing data. We’re also bringing in social data from the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Now, we’re applying analytics to those rich data resources.
We’re in a highly competitive business, so it ’s essential for us to learn constantly and make quick adjustments. By combining data from our different systems, we can improve both sides of the business—operations and customer interactions.
For example, we track our customers’ journeys from beginning to end. If somebody experiences a flight delay, we’re exploring our ability to mollify him or her on the spot by offering something we know they’ll appreciate. For a customer who has ordered cocktails in the past, we might offer an on-board purchase voucher. For a frequent traveler, we might offer a discount on a future flight.
Using analytics, we can make connections between data points that were difficult to correlate in the past. For instance, if we see a pattern in our call center records indicating a high level of satisfaction with certain flights, we can check to see who the crew members and customer service agents were and do further research to find out how those team members work so well together. Then we can share their best practices with other teams.
For us, speed-to-insight is essential. That’s why we’re early adopters of some of the most advanced computer systems technology available. We take advantage of IBM’s POWER8-based systems and FlashSystem storage for number crunching, and we’re beginning to experiment with accelerators and the Apache Spark analytics engine for handing large quantities of diverse data.
We’re also making the most of mobile and Internet-of-Things technologies. We are planning a rollout of iPads to our pilots so they can more easily manage the complicated process of preparing an aircraft for a flight and managing the flight itself. We’re installing BLE beacons in airports we serve so we can improve our passengers’ experiences before they board our aircraft—perhaps offering a passenger who arrives early a discount coupon for a restaurant we know they like.
Information technologies have the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our business. The way I see things, Allegiant’s technology portfolio is like grocery store, and our business leaders are like executive chefs at restaurants. We provide them with fresh produce—technology capabilities and insights from data—and they work their magic to produce more efficient operations and customer satisfaction.
Most people would say we’re an airline or a travel company. I think of Allegiant as a technology company with wings.