Senior Editor, UK
Published: 12 May 2022 9: 00
Low-cost airline Ryanair has revealed how it is using Amazon’s cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) tools to forecast what in-flight refreshments it should stock to avoid disappointing its passengers.
The airline is known to be a long-term Amazon Web Services (AWS) customer, with the firm’s public cloud technology in widespread use across Ryanair’s operations, enabling it to lower costs, reduce food waste and cut its carbon emissions.
The firm also revealed how Amazon’s technology helps it forecast and make predictions about which food and beverages will be most in demand on certain routes and flights so that it can adjust its stock accordingly.
“Your holiday starts on the aircraft,” said Aoife Greene, Ryanair’s deputy director ancillary and head of retail, whose job it is to decide what refreshments each flight should stock. People want their gin & tonic. They want their cheese panini and ham. They want to relax and unwind. They don’t like to hear “No, that’s no longer available”. It’s our job to make sure no one is disappointed.”
Previously, Greene’s team relied on written logs – charting what refreshments had been consumed or wasted during each journey – and their own observations to forecast what items to stock, which is a significant undertaking given that Ryanair operates 2,900 flights a day.
In addition to this, each plane has space for five refreshment trolleys that can only be stocked once every 24 hours.
” I joke with my colleagues who manage fuel consumption that they have an easy lifestyle.” said Greene. “They know the exact location of a plane and how long it will take them to get there. I have no way of knowing whether we’re going to have 100 ballerinas or 100 rugby players on board.”
John Hurley, Ryanair
To assist Greene’s team in their work, Ryanair now uses a machine-learning tool called the “panini predictor”. It relies on data about the goods bought and sold onboard to help them plan the stocking of refreshments.
The predictor tool uses data from flights and information about length, destination and season to determine what beverages will be most in demand.
Ryanair chief technology officer John Hurley said the predictor tool was proving to be particularly useful when deciding what products to stock on newer routes, and had brought about other benefits too.
“Importantly, it’s improved customer satisfaction, cut our waste in half, and boosted our sales,” said Hurley.
The company plans to use the concept of “panini predictor” to other areas of its business. It will be able to take a proactive and predictive approach in maintaining its aircraft and can help select the most fuel-efficient plane to fly on specific routes.
“When AWS came on board, it sort of lit the touch paper to get us going,” said Hurley. “We are testing these projects, analysing this data, getting back the results, and for the most part just saying, “Wow!” It’s a major opportunity to be even more future-focused and efficient.”
Darren Hardman, vice-president and general manager for UK and Ireland at AWS, said the work the airline is doing is “raising the bar” for what is possible in the global air travel industry.
“Ryanair is driving innovation in the aviation industry and utilising AWS machine learning services to reinvent the way airlines deliver enhanced services to their customers while deriving increased efficiencies and improving sustainability across their business,” he added.