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How hot is AIRASIA (5099) AIRASIA GROUP BHD’s data? - Aireen Omar

Evidently, sizzling.

In the commercial world, data is king. It allows businesses to understand its customers, the market, business trends and helps them make important decisions based on these understandings.

Contrary to common belief, ‘customer data’ here is not merely contact details to be used as business leads, but is most valuable when it becomes ‘rich data’ that has been built over time for a business to understand and predict their customer behaviour better, such as their preferences, spending habits and more, making it an indispensable internal digital asset by offering the right things to the right customers at the right place at the right time.

As one of the largest airlines in Asia, AirAsia sits on a wealth of big and rich data, given it has always been a digitally-driven business since day one. The airline was the first in the region to sell tickets directly online and flights using Short-Messaging Service (SMS) through mobile phones when it first started 19 years ago.  What was once an airline, has now transformed into a digital travel and lifestyle company, which is fast becoming Asean’s super app.

Data is especially valuable for a group such as AirAsia, with a continuously growing ecosystem anchored on travel. The super app - airasia.com - now offers something for everyone from flights, accommodation, holidays, hotels, car rentals, food deliveries, online shopping, groceries, mobility services, activities, insurance, Muslim-friendly services, health deals and much more. All from the convenience of one platform.

Then how hot is the data team at AirAsia?          

Understanding the value of data, some of the hottest jobs in the world right now include ‘Data Engineer’, ‘Data Analyst’, and ‘Data Scientist’, especially with the boom of digital businesses globally. 

Managing the massive amount of data at AirAsia is of course no mean feat, but it also allows new opportunities which include: 

  • Reducing costs by improving operational efficiency, productivity, and enhancing resource utilisation in our airline business.
  • To provide a seamless end-to-end journey for our passengers, from the moment they book, fly and return. A user can book a flight, hotel, itinerary, transport and much more with a minimal number of clicks. 
  • Improve customer experience through personalizing our app and other online services for them.
  • Increase revenue for existing products and creating more businesses opportunities through leveraging synergies in the ecosystem
  • Increase loyalty on the ecosystem of travel, lifestyle, e-commerce and other associated businesses

AirAsia’s Data department is made up of professionals in various fields such as science & engineering and big data analytics. The three largest data teams currently are within the airasia.com data team, Airline data team and airasia Digital’s Group Data Centre of Excellence team, with a total of 90 Allstars.

The data teams work closely together to provide infrastructure support, insights for businesses, as well as developing and deploying data science algorithms and models to improve various key business metrics.  

Led by Lye Kong Wei, Chief Data Scientist for AirAsia Group, the data team is divided into units, each with an appointed head. Units include airasia.com responsible for the Asean super app business,  Airline operations including all things that make a flight possible, and AirAsia Digital Group data.

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How AirAsia uses Data?

It varies depending on the product, operational or business requirements.

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For the airline, the data team led by Dr. Omid Geramifard focuses on providing tools and systems that augment and enhance the airline team’s decision making processes by automating certain processes with data-driven strategies where applicable.

Part of the initiatives include predictive analytics such as predictive maintenance (auxiliary power units, hydraulic, landing gear, etc), inventory forecasting, AMOS analytics, real-time delay prediction, flight impact and overflight fee estimation, operations research efforts in optimising aircraft assignment, automated long-term and short-term manpower planning with stand-by prediction functionality, providing flight duty period limit forewarning, crew unavailability prediction, crew fatigue monitoring and prediction to enhance crew rostering, airport and aircraft profiling and pattern mining, and machine learning for Net Promoter Score (NPS) that enables topic modelling and natural language summarisation on customer feedback tags.

The team also provides analytics solutions for the airline's Operational Departments (Ops) and enhances Ops decision making through timely visualisation of data and metrics in the areas of schedule management, crew management, ground resource management, fleet monitoring, supply chain management, security management, customer happiness and many more. 

To support all of these functions, from data analysis and extraction to model deployment and data visualisation by data scientists, an internal airline Data Pipeline & Model Serving team is focused on developing, building, and maintaining data pipelines to perform data ingestion and ensure data integrity. 

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Dr. Warren R. Scott leads the airasia.com data team,  consisting of data scientists, analysts and engineers, the team designs models that provide tools and insights for airasia.com’s various lines of businesses, which includes supporting the commercial department for flights, hotels, and e-commerce analytics. 

Working closely with Route Revenue managers, the team innovates with cutting-edge statistics and ML models focused on forecasting and optimising the airline’s revenue management and pricing strategies. 

By integrating with Kambr’s revenue management solutions, the airasia.com data team delivers in-house data science technologies into the workflow of the Route Revenue system. 

The team is also responsible for delivering a personalised homepage experience, driven by collaborative filtering and user behaviour data. Understanding our users’ behaviours also allows us to develop various prediction models to help them explore and discover highly relevant and best-priced products and bundles. In addition, the team works closely with management to develop and maintain dashboards which track and inform automatically for  airasia.com’s lines of businesses.  Overall, the team plays an integral part in driving revenue growth for the Asean super app businesses.

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Within airasia Digital Group Data,  a team led by Dr. Roman Atachiants is democratising online controlled experimentation by building a state of the art Experimentation Platform. This platform includes segmentation and configuration management which accelerates innovation by allowing the product, engineering and data teams to design experiments, rollout, measure, evaluate, and then optimise product features and services. Hundreds or even more experiments can be run concurrently and safely, to allow teams to improve their products and services rapidly. The experimentation platform also serves as the underlying framework to enable adaptive “explore and exploit” of multiple machine learning models to ensure a good balance of allowing models to self-improve and using best performing models. The experimentation platform will also be extended to other relevant machine learning and optimization applications in other AirAsia businesses.

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With data, AirAsia has created an ecosystem of businesses that touch consumers in their everyday life, transforming AirAsia to become a fully-fledged digital travel and lifestyle company, now much more than just an airline. Through in-depth analysis of the data, airasia Digital was established in 2018 and includes airasia.com, Teleport, BigPay, BIG Rewards and Santan

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Not forgetting our internal customers, a team led by Kong Siong Lin, is working closely with the Finance department to modernise the financial software systems, by migrating and automating movement of data from on-premise and other sources to our own cloud. Budgeting, forecasting, and planning functionalities are re-engineered using the new cloud-based data. This allows our finance department to greatly reduce the time taken for their various important but previously highly manual workload. The new cloud-based financial system also allows the department to simulate and analyse business scenarios quickly and accurately, thus making important top-level decisions more data-driven and at least an order faster.  The success of this project has also encouraged other finance teams to embark on similar digitalisation projects with Siong Lin’s help.

Upcoming projects

Digitalisation is now more crucial than ever, and our data team has been working hard on many initiatives to further enhance and improve the group businesses and services. 

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Sadesh Manikam Head of Data said, “One project recently launched is Project CIRO,  which will deliver a step change in understanding our customers using advanced data mining techniques. 

CIRO draws upon data from all of our business entities, to create a more than 360 degree view of our customers. This helps AirAsia to understand its customer base better and to improve the consumer  experience, enabling other data teams to provide highly personalised information to better targeted segments for any given campaign, relieving journey bottle-necks, along with a host of other benefits.”  

“Data is one of the most valuable assets AirAsia has today and is mainly consumed internally with initiatives such as analytics, machine learning and other decision science solutions including business insights. Data security is always a top priority and is never compromised. airasia Digital complies with all regulations and standards on personal data protection . New technologies and processes are implemented to continuously improve our commitment to full compliance of data governance principles.” 

“Another interesting project that the team will embark on in 2021, is Voice Analytics, an analysis of spoken conversations to better understand customer sentiment. Through this, the team can analyse huge volumes of customer conversation data and identify vital and often-times overlooked information.  Voice Analytics will help the various teams to boost sales agents, customer services, cabin crew and call centre performance levels by automatically identifying deeper insights resulting in improved customer satisfaction, competitor intelligence, agent performance, etc.” Sadesh added.

"AirAsia is constantly embracing innovation and digitalisation and will continue to focus on improving and enhancing its products and services through the use of data, technologies, and translating applied research to production use. We would also like to record our sincere appreciation to the Singapore Economic Development Board for supporting airasia data projects through its grant to AirAsia Technology Centre Singapore" - Lye Kong Wei, Chief Data Scientist for AirAsia Group  

And for the public as well as tech-enthusiasts, we will be launching a tech blog to be hosted on RedBeat Academy website. The blog will curate the best content along with highlights of insights, tech knowledge and initiatives taking place across the airasia group. 

We’re getting it ready so stay tuned on the launch date! 



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