Florida International University

Image via Florida International University

APEX Insight: Recognizing the opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI) for its customers, Farelogix has partnered with Florida International University (FIU) to set up a dedicated program that will apply data analytics to optimize airline revenue management and generate dynamic offers.

The new Data Science for Airlines Informatics (DSAI) program, which will open at FIU in May of this year, is the result of a collaboration between airline IT company Farelogix and the university’s School of Computing and Information Sciences (SCIS). DSAI will be focused on the study, and implementation, of predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence for the airline business – “the new frontier in air commerce,” according to Jim Davidson, CEO of Farelogix.

Students participating in the program will conduct world class research and curate best practices and standards. “[The program will] prepare data science graduates for work in the airline industry,” Davidson explained. “It’s an important step in positioning Farelogix customers and the wider airline industry to take advantage of dynamic offer optimization.” Davidson says that the program is also a beneficial recruiting tool, attracting the next generation of data scientists to Farelogix.

“[The program will] prepare data science graduates for work in the airline industry.” –  Jim Davidson, Farelogix CEO

Steve Luis, director, Technology/Business Relations for FIU SCIS, says the partnership will help students find practical applications for the technologies they explore and help the university improve the business benefits of its curriculum. “Our goal is to create a body of knowledge and inject that through the courses that we are teaching,” he said. “We’ve been using our masters and PhD programs to develop multidisciplinary teams, and our colleagues in the business schools have a keen interest.

Airlines pose a particular challenge because of the complexity of their data sets, which integrate operational data, customer relationship management data, data from loyalty programs, and unstructured data sets like social media buzz.

Luis has already engaged FIU’s multi-million dollar research and instructional facilities to solve complex challenges, including disaster informatics, which looks at how large-scale disasters impact information and communications in metropolitan areas. He has authored several papers on the challenges of information discovery, retrieval and sharing during extreme events, and he specializes in mobile computing, as well as virtual reality. All of these have applications for aviation, but understanding how AI may optimize communications in critical events could help airlines improve their management of irregular operations events.

“Looking at datasets and applying analytics, taking multimodal information, video imagery, it’s finding the needle in a haystack to start developing models. Sentiment analysis programs will analyze how people will react to a particular event,” Luis explained. “These techniques are very applicable to next-generation revenue management.”

“Airline pricing rules have been put together by humans,” Davidson stated. “We see that utilizing more machine algorithms and rules, which allow airlines to respond better to requests for offers … taking into account what’s going on social media, tracking spend, tracking meals sold … it all becomes data rich elements what we can use. I think airlines are going to be excited.”