Aviation folks of a certain vintage will recall how OAG used to publish passenger flight schedules in book format once a month. My, how times have changed.
The tech overhaul is backed by British venture firm Vitruvian Partners, which bought OAG for $215 million in February 2017.
The new data delivery vehicle Metis reflects an ongoing digital transformation led by chief technology officer Nick Dearden’s, who joined in August 2019. Metis resulted from Dearden’s two-year push of moving OAG’s systems to cloud-based storage provider Microsoft Azure. OAG can now more flexibly scale its solutions globally as needed.
OAG, once known as the Official Airline Guide and currently based in Luton, UK, had been a vital source of information for aviation for decades. It gathers data on flight schedules, delays, takeoffs, and landings from approximately 97 percent of the world’s airlines and about 4,000 airports to help decision-makers at airlines, airports, travel tech startups, and investment firms.
Yet OAG has struggled to find its footing in the digital era. The company, which generated about $38 million in revenue in 2019, according to a Dun and Bradstreet estimate, has increasingly faced digital-savvy competition. Its most prominent rival has been Cirium.
While the pandemic has devastated the aviation sector, OAG was able to maintain its level of investment in data democratization. When asked whether the company had to cut staff, Dearden said that, while management had to protect the business, there wasn’t “any major impact.”
“My main takeaway from this crisis is that it doesn’t matter whether aviation is operating at 100 percent or 50 percent; people still need our data,” Dearden said. “They need the data to be able to plan their operations. And when you go through such a destructive, changeable period, that leads to opportunity as well. So new players come to the market who want the data.”
Adding Data Science and Analytics
Dearden said his team is focusing this year on ways to use technology to enhance the customer experience of accessing airline schedules and flight on-time performance. OAG plans to use artificial intelligence to enhance the data and make forecasts, rolling out a commercialized data science offering that provides a more accurate view of airline capacity.
“In essence, we’re now able to train models that look at the type of aircraft, the past performance, the schedules moving forward, and start thinking about how to infer a new set of attributes that aren’t obvious in the data to generate new insights into what’s happening,” Dearden said.
The company can do that thanks to Metis, which blends multiple data sources within a single platform.
“What we’ve got now is a bit more than a data lake,” Dearden said.
OAG has adopted solutions from Snowflake, which provides analytics and services to connect to cloud computing services. Snowflake’s software treats all parts of a cloud-based system as if it were one computer for more agile enterprise analytics.
Two Paths to Access Flight Capacity Data
OAG has boosted its use of application programming interfaces, or APIs, to give customers easier real-time access to the company’s systems and aggregated data. It recently launched a Flight Info API on Microsoft’s marketplace.
Customers can access OAG’s aggregated data on the cloud platform of their choice, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure via Snowflake’s marketplace. They can then plug their preferred analytical software, such as Tableau or Microsoft’s Power BI, on top of the data to create dashboards.
“This two-pronged approach will let us serve customers who have got some systems that need real-time data feeds via APIs to see what’s happening, but who have also got a department that needs to run analyses of the trends and build forecasts from it,” Dearden said.
OAG had never before offered a place for customers to learn how to tap into the company’s APIs, such as its API that offers 35 million flight status updates daily with direct connections into customer systems. So the company has added a “developer portal” for that purpose.
“Overall, we’ve made some pretty fundamental kind of shifts that will create a massively different proposition for our customers,” Dearden said.
CORRECTION: OAG’s rival is Cirium, which doesn’t own FlightGlobal as the article first said.
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Photo credit: A flight board at London's Heathrow Airport. OAG, an aviation and information intelligence provider, has introduce a new portal thanks to help from tech from Microsoft and Snowflake. Sean O'Neill / Skift