COVID-19 has brought about numerous challenges for industries across the board. But this pandemic has also forced us to think out-of-the-box and come up with innovative ways to overcome the challenges that come along with a global health crisis like this one.
It could be because I work in the data and analytics space, but I see an opportunity here. I believe that data can help us combat the spread of deadly viruses and diseases. If we can cross-leverage data from industries such as travel and healthcare, we could potentially preempt the spread of viruses, and their point of origin, and provide advance warning to passengers that will allow them to make informed travel decisions. This would also enable airlines to plan their travel routes accordingly, to avoid unforeseen last-minute cancellations and schedule changes.
Big data can help make sense of large, integrated data-sets, and provide a Single Source of Truth (SSOT). This will equip decision-makers with quicker, and more pertinent insights, that can have a more overarching impact on the business. Staying within the bounds of data privacy laws, a collaboration between the healthcare sector and the travel industry could deliver more value to the customer.
If airline companies can access electronic health records (EHR) of passengers, even at an aggregate level, it would allow them to tailor the flight experience for their passengers accordingly. Healthcare institutions on the other hand can have access to patient travel history aggregated from airline carriers, which will help them offer better diagnosis and treatment. Confidential data from both sides can be exchanged using a unique or composite key, and it can be encrypted using cryptographic technologies such as blockchain, to prevent the loss or misuse of data.
There are tremendous possibilities that can be explored, if we can get the travel and healthcare systems to talk to each other. But let’s delve a little deeper into how the three main pillars of analytics (descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive) can specifically help drive transformations in the airline industry:
Descriptive Analytics (historical comparison):
Airlines can offer various bespoke services to their passengers, if they had access to the passengers’ health records. For instance, while booking the ticket:
- Airlines can make in-flight meal and seat recommendations, based on the passenger’s dietary restrictions (food allergies), chronic disorders, and other pre-existing conditions
- They can offer special assistance to passengers who are suffering from serious ailments, on the flight
- Passengers can be forewarned about epidemics, air quality index, and other health hazards at the destination
- Airline carriers would also be better equipped to provide emergency care to passengers’ mid-air or at the airport, if they can access information such as blood group, chronic conditions, etc.
Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics (predictions and charting future course):
If airlines could mine data and use modelling techniques to identify patterns and predict future outcomes, it would help them to significantly optimize their resources and boost revenues. It would also allow them to ensure that they work with local governments to nip possible virus outbreaks, in the bud. Here are a few possibilities:
- Airlines can provide travel histories of passengers to the local health departments (in destination countries), to help identify people travelling from regions that are combating a disease, or virus
- Flying restrictions can be imposed on certain individuals until they get themselves tested, if their travel history suggests that they could be asymptomatic carriers of a pathogen
- Airline companies can assess the risks associated with flying through certain routes based on several regional parameters, and decide if they want to alter their flight schedules
- Push notifications can be sent to passengers who have installed the airline company’s mobile app, warning them about possible health risks in their destination country, based on their existing health conditions (for example – warning a passenger suffering from a breathing disorder, about the quality of the air in their arrival city)
These were some use cases that demonstrate how data can potentially save passenger lives, curb the spread of deadly pathogens, and allow airline companies to optimize their operations and revenue. But if we scratch beneath the surface, data can yield numerous opportunities to help transform the airlines industry and improve the passenger experience. The knowledge that the airline carrier you are flying with is fully equipped to provide assistance in case you face a medical emergency, can be very reassuring. I know at least I will feel much safer when I fly next time.