Air New Zealand harnesses AI to improve aircraft turns

January 23, 2020
Air New Zealand AI
Image; Air New Zealand

Airlines are always hunting for ways to improve on-time performance and Air New Zealand is hoping artificial intelligence will help it do just that.

A key way of improving punctuality is through aircraft turn times — the time between a plane stopping at a gate and pushing back — and the airline is hoping to see significant benefits from a trial of a computer vision artificial intelligence system

It is teaming with start-up Assaia Apron AI and Auckland Airport to test computer vision AI-equipped cameras that can capture key aircraft turn activities and predict future operational needs.

It will work with the AI-based system through 2020 before analyzing its impact to assess its value to the business.

READ: Airbus uses image recognition for automatic take-off.

The Kiwi carrier is one of the first airlines in the world to use the Assaia technology, which monitors a complex process involving more than 50 activities.

These range from disembarkation and baggage handling to cabin cleaning, airworthiness inspections, catering and restocking.

OTP is particularly important to business travelers but aircraft turn time also involves the cleanliness, safety and efficiency of flights.

The airline says the AI system allows staff to monitor what happens during a turn and provides them with real-time alerts and predictive analysis to help them better manage operations.

air new Zealand AI
A screenshot of the system. Image; AirNZ

“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,’’ says Air New Zealand operational performance program manager Marianita Willis.

“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.”

This means that trends can be identified to predict future challenges and resolve them before they become a problem.

Willis says Air New Zealand’s recent airline-wide efforts have contributed to improvements across Air New Zealand’s networks in every key metric of on-time performance.

“We’re entering an exciting new era of 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,” she says.