airBaltic: Artificial intelligence could ‘revolutionise’ commercial flying

airBaltic: Artificial intelligence could 'revolutionise' commercial flying

In June last year, airBaltic announced it would begin to adopt new artificial intelligence technology in the hopes of providing a “seamless” customer experience and improving efficiency. 

Indeed, as a new technology, key players across the industry are looking to explore AI to enhance their operations. The airline has said AI tools could establish new industry standards – and that it wants to remain at the forefront of innovative technologies.

ARGS spoke with Lauris Mikelsons, vice president for compliance and safety at airBaltic, about how the airline sees artificial intelligence as having revolutionary potential for commercial aviation.

Why is airBaltic implementing AI tools into its operations, and how do you think they will improve or benefit operations? 

airBaltic is at the forefront of the aviation industry in implementing AI technologies to enhance its safety management practices. Already in 2024, the airline utilises AI algorithms powered by software AI company Beams to analyse and process safety-related issues, paving the way for automated processes and simulations that can help to predict potential hazards in the future. 

In the airline industry, airBaltic is emerging as an innovative leader by integrating artificial intelligence into its safety management processes. Current AI’s role is transformative, focusing on continuous learning and data analysis to identify patterns in operational safety reports, which helps in detecting risks and hazards.

This technology enables the faster detection of anomalies in reports that precede more serious occurrences, aiding safety analysts in developing timely preventive measures. AI-driven simulations mark a significant advancement in predictive safety analytics, allowing airBaltic to model various hazard scenarios and gain insights into potential future occurrences. This facilitates proactive policy, training and procedure adjustments to mitigate operational safety risks. 

AI also enhances the productivity of safety analysts by automating the processing of large volumes of safety reports and categorising them by ‘criticality’. This automatic triage helps the safety team to prioritise critical safety reports, focusing their efforts more effectively.

The AI systems learn and adapt, creating a dynamic loop that supports human decision-making and benefits from human expertise. The use of AI in this way positions airBaltic at the forefront of AI-assisted aviation risk management, potentially setting a standard for the industry and contributing to a safer aviation environment.

How do you think AI technology can benefit all parties involved in commercial aviation, such as airlines, airports and online travel agents, to provide better service to customers? 

AI technology holds the potential to revolutionise commercial aviation, benefiting airlines, airports, online travel agents, and most importantly, customers.

The most significant impact of AI in aviation is its capacity to enhance all data-based processes, starting from customer experience during online flight booking, up to and including safety analytics based on a multitude of data inputs.

By analysing vast amounts of data from various sources, AI can identify potential risks and hazards with unprecedented precision, thereby enhancing the overall experience and safety of air travel.

This increased safety is not just a benefit for passengers but also for all industry stakeholders, including airlines and airports, as it will lead to more efficient operations, fewer disruptions and fewer incidents. 

Beyond safety, AI can personalise the customer experience in remarkable ways. For instance, AI algorithms can analyse customer data to offer tailored travel recommendations, from flight options to hotel bookings, making each aspect of travel more aligned with individual preferences.

This customisation extends to airports where AI can streamline check-in processes, predict security wait times and guide passengers through the terminal to their gates, enhancing the overall airport experience. 

Online travel agents can leverage AI to provide more intuitive booking experiences, with intelligent systems suggesting travel itineraries and packages based on previous searches, bookings and even customer reviews. This not only makes the booking process more efficient but also more aligned with what customers truly want. 

Moreover, AI’s role as a constant travel assistant is an exciting prospect. Through AI-powered apps and services, travellers can receive real-time updates on flight status, baggage tracking and even local information about their destinations.

This continuous assistance ensures that customers have a seamless and enjoyable travel experience, with AI promptly addressing any queries or concerns. 

Basically, AI’s integration into commercial aviation promises a future where safety is paramount, experiences are personalised, and the joy of travel is enhanced.

This technology is set to transform how we fly, making every journey safer, more comfortable and tailored to individual needs and preferences. 

Do you think AI technology, together with blockchain, has the ability to transform commercial aviation for all parties, and thus passengers? And if so, how?  

Certainly. The synergistic potential of AI and blockchain technology in commercial aviation is poised to bring about a transformative shift, touching every facet of the industry and elevating the passenger experience to new heights.

AI’s prowess in data analysis and predictive algorithms will revolutionise safety protocols and maintenance schedules, ensuring a higher standard of operational reliability and efficiency.

This, in turn, translates to fewer delays, heightened safety and an overall smoother travel experience for passengers. Simultaneously, AI’s capability to personalise services based on individual passenger data will redefine the travel experience, making it more tailored and enjoyable.

From customised in-flight services to individualised travel suggestions, AI will make air travel more than just a journey, but a personally curated experience. 

Blockchain technology complements these advancements by bringing unparalleled security and transparency, particularly in areas like ticketing and baggage tracking. Its ability to provide secure, immutable records ensures integrity and trust – crucial elements in the aviation industry. 

When combined, these technologies don’t just incrementally improve existing processes – they have the potential to redefine them. They will create an aviation ecosystem that is not only safer and more efficient but also more attuned to the needs and preferences of each traveller.

This integration marks a shift towards a future where commercial aviation is not only about reaching a destination but also about how securely, efficiently and personally one gets there. 

Do you think AI technology will be implemented more widely across the international industry? 

We are keenly aware of the transformative impact that AI technology can have across the entire aviation value chain. Humanity is entering an era where AI’s integration into the international airline industry is not just an option but a necessity. 

Starting from the passenger experience, AI can revolutionise how we interact with our customers. From personalised travel recommendations to seamless check-in processes, AI can significantly enhance customer satisfaction.

We are looking into advanced AI systems that can predict customer preferences, offering a more tailored flying experience. 

In terms of safety and risk predictions, advanced technology companies like Beams enable us to use AI to identify potential risks and timely operational inputs by analysing vast amounts of data, long before they become critical issues. This proactive approach to safety is paramount in our industry.

We’re further investing in predictive maintenance intending to use AI to better analyse aircraft data in real-time to foresee and prevent certain types of failures. This will not only raise the safety of our passengers but also improve the efficiency and reliability of our fleet. 

Regarding manufacturing, AI-driven automation and advanced analytics can lead to more efficient production processes, reducing costs and increasing the speed at which new aircraft are delivered.  

At the end of the day, every airline considering fleet renewal will seek for a model that is not only suitable by capacity and performance for its intended network needs but also is at the forefront of technology and efficiency. 

Lastly, in terms of maintenance, AI technology is a game changer towards enhanced predictive and preventive maintenance. By using AI for predictive maintenance to supplement the current maintenance steering output, one can expect more accurately forecasts when parts of an aircraft need servicing beyond the prescriptive schedule or life limits at the core of the current maintenance planning process.

This would offer not only minimised downtime but also help towards significant cost savings and improved operational efficiency. 

How can the industry ensure developing countries or countries with smaller economies can keep up to date with new technology such as AI and make sure they are not left behind?  

To ensure that developing countries and smaller economies are not left behind in the AI revolution, a multi-faceted approach is essential, focusing on affordability, accessibility and strategic investments. 

AI technology, unlike certain other advanced technologies like 5G, has the advantage of being inherently scalable and adaptable to various platforms. This includes integration into everyday devices like smartphones, computers and even wearables, which are increasingly common worldwide.

The cost of implementing AI in these devices is relatively low, making it a cost-effective solution for countries with smaller economies.  

Moreover, AI doesn’t always require the latest hardware or high-speed internet, making it more accessible in regions where such infrastructure might still be developing. AI algorithms can be designed to run efficiently on less advanced hardware, ensuring broader accessibility.

This is crucial for developing countries where the latest technology may not be readily available or affordable. Furthermore, major tech companies like Microsoft, Meta, and Google recognise the vast potential of these markets and are likely to continue investing in AI infrastructure in developing countries.

These investments aren’t solely for altruistic reasons – they represent a significant business opportunity to expand their global user base. By investing in AI infrastructure, these companies can foster a more inclusive digital environment. 

These companies also often provide training and resources to local developers and businesses, helping to build a home-grown AI ecosystem. This local development is crucial for ensuring that AI solutions are tailored to the specific needs and challenges of each region. 

In addition, partnerships between governments, NGOs, and private sectors can play a crucial role in facilitating the adoption of AI in these regions. Policies that encourage innovation, provide educational resources and create a supportive environment for technology start-ups can help bridge the gap. 

So, the combination of AI’s inherent scalability, strategic investments by major tech companies, and supportive partnerships can ensure that developing countries and smaller economies are not left behind in the AI era. These efforts can make AI a ubiquitous, affordable, and valuable tool across diverse global contexts.