Everyday AI: How the aviation industry is using AI to reduce fuel consumption, and keep flights on time

When swiss international airlines started Using artificial intelligence technology To boost efficiency, the company has been able to better optimize more than half of the flights in its network. He also saved 5 million Swiss francs (5.4 million US dollars) last year.

Lufthansa had a similar experience. The German-based airline is using artificial intelligence to better predict winds that blow from the northeast into southwest Switzerland, which can lead to flight delays and flight cancellations that can reduce capacity by up to 30% at Zurich Airport. Artificial intelligence helps the airline more accurately predict wind patterns, resulting in more than 40% relative improvement in accuracy.

Both Swiss and Lufthansa rely on the AI ​​prediction models they have developed The Google The cloud, to help airlines model different scenarios and account for more “what if” disruptions that could delay or cancel flights.

The AI ​​technology being used by airlines today is improving “everything from how we actually schedule staff in a more efficient way, to understanding weather conditions and being able to use that to predict when planes will land and how much fuel to go into,” said Warren Barclay, senior director of product management at Google. They will use it.” AI technology “has the potential to look at hundreds of millions of data points and take in factors that you have never considered, or could not have used before, to predict what will happen,” Barclay says.

lately holiday breakdown from which he suffers Southwest Airlines It highlights how important it is for airlines to invest in technology that can help them avoid the chaos that thousands of canceled flights can entail.

For carriers to run their operations effectively, they have to plan for a lot of disruptions. What is the plane’s trajectory? Is the crew at their destination? Is the plane early or late? What does any of this mean for connecting flights? And what does that mean for baggage?

“If you look at some of the cool parts of how AI is applied, a lot of it is about the flexibility in predicting things,” Barclay says.

Delta Airlinesand JetBlue American Airlines Among the airlines investing in artificial intelligence today. The sector is finally enjoying a bright tailwind after the COVID-19 pandemic hit demand hard. Last year, global airline industry revenue grew by 44% to $727 billion by 2021, According to the International Air Transport Associationwhich also expects to return to profitability in 2023.

JetBlue launched A220-300 operations in April 2021 and currently operates eight A220s in a 140-seat configuration.

Courtesy of JetBlue

JetBlue Ventures, a subsidiary of JetBlue that invests in early-stage travel startups, contends that travel pain points are due to industry fragmentation. Large scale travel can refer to airlines, hotels, and ground transportation, and these providers tend not to work together. JetBlue Ventures aspires to connect the dots and create a smoother journey.

“There’s a lot of data within our industry, and we’re doing a poor job of using it,” says Amy Burr, president of JetBlue Ventures. “The industry has a very old and outdated technology stack. The systems are outdated. And communicating new technology is very difficult and very time consuming.”

Bohr says AI can help airlines improve. It is particularly optimistic about using artificial intelligence to improve flight operations, the cockpit, and potential autonomous decisions within the cockpit. AI can also be used to address issues that arise with aircraft maintenance or ground operations and airports.

There is also a long runway to enhance fuel management, which is a key focus for industry sustainability and also a significant cost saving, as fuel is one of the largest expenditures for the aviation sector.

“With fuel management, what you can do with AI is be able to predict very accurately which path to take, where the fuel should be, and how much to burn,” Barclay says. Bohr has a similar view. “Having an AI tool that allows us to better manage fuel and steering, and allows us to save fuel is a really compelling use case,” she says.

JetBlue Ventures has invested in eight AI-related startups, including Beacon AI, Tomorrow.io, UrbanFox, and FLYR Labs. With FLYR, JetBlue has already revealed a partnership with Better pricing predictionswhich can help the carrier to maximize revenue growth.

Fetcherr is a competitor to FLYR that uses artificial intelligence to create more stable fares. This democratization levels the playing field to ensure that consumers pay similar prices for the same trip – but ultimately it is a tool intended to increase revenue for carriers. The technology collects a broad range of data points, including airline ticket data and reservation data, competitor flight schedules and fares, as well as information from capital markets, oil futures contracts, and other market-influencing economic indicators.

“What is the willingness to pay? What is the elasticity of demand? We know how to predict each flight, each seat, and the number of passengers who will buy a ticket for each possible price point,” says Ori Yerushalmi, co-founder and CEO of AI at Fetcherr.

Right now, most prices are set by humans. And price analysts can easily freak out and lower fares if there is concern about a low load factor, which metric airlines monitor to determine what percentage of available seats passengers would have occupied.

“AI is not afraid of the low load factor,” says Yerushalmi. “They know what actions they need to take to maximize revenue for the airline.” Last fall, Fetchr announce Brazil-based Azul Airlines became the first to pilot the startup’s demand forecasting technology and pricing algorithm.

On the horizon, industry experts say AI could be used to create more futuristic self-driving ground equipment and autonomous flight. As is always the case with artificial intelligence, this type of automation raises questions about what human jobs can be eliminated when implementing this technology.

“We want companies to invest in AI, but at the same time, we crave that human connection as well,” says Alison Angus, Practice Lead for Innovation Research at Euromonitor.

The research firm says 51% of companies surveyed plan to invest in artificial intelligence, more than planned investments in robotics and automation as well as augmented and virtual reality.

“Companies need to be careful and balance their investments in AI, bots and automation along with that human element,” says Angus. “We need to maintain that emotional bond.”

Leave a Comment