Air New Zealand is trialling the latest in computer vision artificial intelligence (AI) in its search for innovative ways to continually improve aircraft turn times and better on-time performance. The new technology, made available through a partnership with leading technology start-up Assaia and alongside Auckland Airport, uses computer vision AI-equipped cameras to capture key aircraft turn activities and to predict future operational needs. Air New Zealand is one of the first airlines in the world to use the Assaia Apron AI technology, the initiative being at the centre of the airline’s efforts to maintain its strong global position in on-time-performance measures.
An aircraft turn involves more than 50 coordinated activities. These include disembarking of passengers and crew, cabin cleaning, catering and restocking, offloading of arriving baggage and cargo, refuelling, safety and airworthiness inspections, loading of departing baggage and cargo and passenger embarkation. Turn time of an aircraft is the time from when an aircraft stops on the gate to the time the aircraft leaves the gate. The process involves the planning and handling of the tasks that ensure the cleanliness, safety and efficiency of the next flight. The turn time is a significant contributor to positive passenger experience and airline performance.
Air New Zealand Programme Manager for Operational Performance, Marianita Willis says the Assaia Apron AI technology helps operations staff to better monitor and understand what is happening during an aircraft turn and to offer real-time alerts and predictive analysis to better manage operations. “For each flight there is a precise timeline associated with each activity to get the plane turned – understanding what is happening at each of these points enables us to proactively manage them. The technology enables additional data points to be collected in a real time situation, offering a bird’s eye view which helps us get the necessary equipment and people in place.”
Marianita adds that the Assaia Apron AI system generates timestamps, predictions and alerts that allow operational teams to proactively make improvements. “Trends can be identified which allow us to predict the future challenges we might face, therefore allowing us to make significant improvements to our operations. It is often the potential issues that we resolve ahead of time that are key. Air New Zealand’s recent airline-wide efforts have contributed to improvements measured across all Air New Zealand’s networks in every on-time-performance key metric. We’re entering an exciting new era of the operations, where data is increasingly leading our decision making and, with this, we are seeing the culmination of efforts right across the business to deliver a new level of excellence for our customers.”
Air New Zealand’s Chief Digital Officer, Jennifer Sepull says the use of artificial intelligence is an example of how the business is exploring new technology and innovations to help solve real business challenges and improve performance for its customers. She notes, “In leveraging machine learning and computer vision in this way, we have been able to get actionable data insights. Technology is becoming increasingly accessible through both local and global innovation ecosystems and this is a powerful example of what you can achieve when you build strong technology partnerships.”
Air New Zealand will continue the Assaia Apron AI system trial into 2020 and next steps will be to better understand the data and analytics and to more fully assess the technology’s value to the business.