Business challenge

To strengthen brand loyalty, this major airline aims to minimize delays and avoid cancelations. How can it provide a first-class experience, even when extreme weather plays havoc with its flight plans?

Transformation

The airline re-engineered its weather visualization and flight tracking systems to help its strategic planning and flight dispatch teams make more informed decisions and keep flights on course.

Results

Helps

increase situational awareness with a single source of insight into flying conditions

Helps

minimize disruption by helping dispatch teams make more informed routing decisions

Helps

monitor whether airports are safe for landing

Business challenge story

Turning one-time customers into frequent flyers

For this global airline headquartered in North America, maintaining customer loyalty with a first-class passenger experience is crucial in the battle for market share. On-time departures, keeping passengers well-informed on service interruptions, and providing smooth, stress-free flying are all vital steps towards building the consumer satisfaction that turns new customers into frequent flyers.

A spokesperson for the airline explains: “Our focus on customer service means that we take passenger feedback very seriously. As a business, we spend lots of time working through surveys and other feedback. We know that our reputation as a leading carrier depends on our ability to get people to their destination reliably and on time – so avoiding delays and cancelations wherever possible is critical to our success.”

It is the role of the strategic planning team to minimize disruption to flights from extraordinary events, such as adverse weather systems. The team aims to prevent cancelations and keep delays as short as possible, so customers don’t need to spend too much time waiting in the departure lounge.

According to the airline’s strategic planning team, weather conditions such as thunderstorms, fog, or low clouds are the major cause of disruption to flight plans, accounting for up to 90 percent of all delays. Other causes of ground stops and departure restrictions include security concerns and the need to regulate the volume of traffic within an airspace region at a particular time. In such conditions, the strategic planning team must decide whether to delay, cancel, divert or hold the flight in the air or on the ground.

However, each time the team delays a flight, there is a domino effect on later departures. The team cannot keep delaying, so there comes a point when it must cancel. For this reason, the airline needs the clearest and most precise picture possible relating to changing weather conditions, flights entering and leaving airspace regions, and aircraft that are currently on the tarmac.

To limit the impact of weather conditions on its customers, the airline wanted to standardize its IT landscape to give its flight dispatch and strategic planning specialists a common set of tools. The airline decided to modernize the flight tracking and weather visualization platform used by its strategic planning team.

Previously, the airline relied on a system developed in-house to monitor weather events and flight movements. The main priority for the new project was to standardize, but there were also some new functionalities that the airline wanted to add. Building those new features into its existing platform would have required a significant development effort, making a move to a more modern platform the smarter choice.

Transformation story

Monitoring flights with a single source of data

To replace its legacy system, the airline began a project to implement a new advanced weather monitoring and near real-time flight tracking platform for its strategic planning team.

The new system is built on WSI Fusion software from The Weather Company®, an IBM Business. The solution integrates weather data provided by the airline’s in-house meteorological team with flight data derived from flight plans and onboard telemetry. This gives the strategic planning team a clear representation of all weather systems affecting its flightpaths and airports. The system also delivers up-to-the-minute data on all aircraft entering and leaving specified airspace zones, including both the airline’s own flights and those of other carriers.

The spokesperson continues: “Our job is to juggle multiple pieces of data, assess them quickly, and decide on the appropriate course of action. At any one time, for example, we may have to factor in FAA flightpath restrictions, the threat of fast-moving thunderstorms, and the amount of fuel each of our aircraft has on board. We then need to decide on whether to re-route the aircraft or put it into a holding pattern. Now that we have our new system in place, we have a single source of truth that enables us to assess all of this information and plan ahead to avoid hazards wherever possible.”

The airline ran its new solution alongside its old in-house systems for six months to facilitate the switchover. During the change-over, it experienced no problems, and in time, the airline expects users to quickly adopt the features of the new solution.

Results story

Shorter delays with in-depth tracking

With the new weather visualization and flight tracking system, the airline’s strategic planning team is well-equipped to keep flights on schedule wherever possible, and to minimize disruption while working to keep passengers and flight crews safe. 

The airline now has an unsurpassed level of detail on weather systems and the position of its flights. For example, when it monitors flights, the airline can see a level of detail all the way down to aircraft movements on the runway. That means it knows exactly how long it will take before a flight leaves, and precisely when it will meet incoming weather systems.

The airline also now has the best possible chance to work towards avoiding cancelations, and can keep the amount of time passengers spend waiting in the departure lounge to a minimum. Contingency plans such as diversions to nearby airports, or alternative routes to bypass problem areas, can be put in place as early as possible when a severe weather event or other disruption arises.

In one recent example, the new solution enabled the strategic planning team to track all of the inbound aircraft and those preparing to leave, and to keep a constant eye on the RVR, which were hovering around 5,000 ft threshold and changing from minute to minute. This detailed level of situational awareness meant the airline could take decisive action to divert or hold the aircraft until it was safe for them to progress.

The Weather Company solution enabled the airline to track all of the inbound aircraft and those preparing to leave, and to keep a constant eye on the RVR conditions, which were hovering around the 5,000ft threshold and changing from minute to minute. This detailed level of situational awareness meant the airline could take decisive action to divert or hold the aircraft until it was safe for them to progress.

The spokesperson concludes: “Thanks to our project to update our tracking and weather systems, we now have the insight we need to maintain our reputation for timely, reliable service, helping us keep customers satisfied and loyal to our brand.”

About Major global airline based in North America

This leading airline is headquartered in North America and transports millions of passengers every year to destinations worldwide.

Solution components

Take the next step

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helps people make informed decisions and take action in the face of weather. The company offers the most accurate  forecasts globally with personalized and actionable weather data and insights to millions of consumers, as well as thousands of marketers and businesses via Weather’s API, its business solutions division, and its own digital products from The Weather Channel (weather.com) and Weather Underground (wunderground.com).

The company delivers around 25 billion forecasts daily. Its products include the world’s most downloaded weather app, a network of 250,000 personal weather stations, a top-20 U.S. website, one of the world’s largest IoT data platforms, and industry-leading business solutions.

Weather Means Business™. The world’s biggest brands in aviation, energy, insurance, media, and government rely on The Weather Company for data, technology platforms and services to help improve decision-making and respond to weather’s impact on business.

For more, visit business.weather.com.

View more client stories or learn more about IBM The Weather Company