Airport uses mobile phone data to gain insight into popular routes

London Southend Airport in Essex is using mobile phone data to find out where local people are flying so that it can introduce new routes that are in demand.

The airport, owned by the Stobart Group, will receive anonymised data from Wi-Fi tracking systems. From this, it can map where residents across the region are flying and set up new routes to attract customers from rival airports like Gatwick and Stansted.

Glyn Jones, Chief Executive of the airport, told local newspaper The Echo: “Southend Airport is currently carrying out an analytics project using ‘big data’ to understand the travel patterns of the population in our region. Whilst we believe this is a first for an airport, it is methodology used by other transport planners to understand traffic flows. The bundles of data, which are historic rather than real-time information, are totally anonymous with no individuals identified in terms of addresses or locations.” Jones stressed that the airport is “not in any way tracking or monitoring residents or passengers.”

Southend Airport has launched an ambitious strategy to welcome 2.5 million passengers by 2018 – triple the amount of people who used the airport last year.

“This project will help the airport deliver more routes that will be relevant to local travellers” Jones explained. “It will therefore mean they can fly from their local airport rather than travel miles to other more crowded ones.”

According to This is Money, Southend Airport has already used the phone tracking data to launch routes with easyJet to Malta and Murcia in Spain, and with Flybe to Manchester, Dublin and Glasgow. It is also in talks with four airlines to offer routes to Rome, Naples and Croatia.

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