Southwest Airlines' Real-time Operations Recovery Tool Is a Winner of 2016 FICO Decision Management Innovation Award

  • Infrastructure
  • 11.01.2017 11:00 am

Analytics software firm FICO today announced that Southwest Airlines has been awarded the 2016 FICO Decisions Award in the Decision Management Innovation category for its Baker Airline Operations Recovery Optimizer tool. The Baker, as it is referred to by Southwest Airlines, is the airline industry’s first real-time, integrated recovery solver that generates solutions to operational disruptions such as maintenance problems and weather events, while minimising the impact to passengers and flight and ground crews.

Since its implementation in November 2015, Baker has yielded significant cost savings by demonstrating significant improvement in key metrics such as on-time performance (OTP), customers delayed more than two hours, and mishandled luggage. On days with irregular operations in which more than 2 percent of flights were cancelled, OTP was 10-15 percent higher than similar events in the past – equating to more than 2 percent increase in OTP since the tool was launched in November 2015. During a blizzard in Denver last year, for instance, OTP was seven percent higher than a comparable airline that did not take proactive action.

“Prior to the Baker implementation, superintendents of dispatch would address airline problems with a manual, labour-intensive process that could take hours to work out a single solution,” said Phil Beckmanager, optimisation solutions at Southwest. “Not only does this tool enable them to quickly react to problems within minutes, but they can also get ahead of potential disruptions hours in advance and have time to evaluate multiple scenarios. This project has supported the company’s goals and philosophies related to passenger hospitality, cost avoidance and operational performance.”

Using FICO® Xpress Optimization Suite, the Baker utilises several algorithms, advanced in-memory cache technology, and hundreds of carefully calibrated parameters to achieve real-time performance and high-quality, integrated decision-making. The Baker team worked closely with Southwest’s Superintendents of Dispatch for years prior to launch, incorporating business knowledge and best practices gained from their decades of first-hand experience. 

“Southwest achieved an industry-first solution to a well-studied problem,” said Jim Bander, national manager, Decision Science, Toyota Financial Services, a judge for this year’s FICO Decision Awards. “The Baker project has several obvious benefits for its back-end operations and profitability, but at the end of the day, the real winners are the passengers who can get to their destinations without delay, and the crewmembers who can complete their assigned shifts as planned. Southwest is solving real problems for real people.”

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