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Before, air travel There is a certain rhythm. Business travelers fly out on Monday morning and fly back on Thursday night to fill more expensive seats. In summer, price-conscious leisure travelers fly into the sky. On Thanksgiving, Labor Day and Christmas, as well as sports tournaments, music festivals, fashion weeks and other specific destinations, crowds will fly around. Insert decades of historical data into complex mathematical models to help airlines determine schedules and prices.

Then came the pandemic. “All history, all old practices airline The prices used to determine planned flights and charges in the past have to be set aside,” said Jim Barlow, vice president of strategic consulting at Amadeus, which builds software for airlines.

Now, as more and more passengers are vaccinated and willing to travel, the aviation industry is seeing buds. On July 5, more than 2.1 million people passed through US airport security checkpoints, almost twice as many as last year; but this is still 20% less than in 2019.

This does not mean that the picture created by the airline’s algorithm becomes clearer. Compared with usual, airline operations have fewer data and greater uncertainty, which creates a complex mathematical problem. It’s not just figuring out where people want to go and how much they are willing to pay. It also ensures that a properly sized aircraft and well-rested crew are at the correct take-off location. The digital processors who run its system have found other ways to deal with it.

Barlow said that during the first six months of the pandemic, many airlines relied less on their algorithms, and more on their manual scheduling and pricing teams, and they had a hunch about where people wanted to go.They froze recruitment and Fired thousands of workers. Some people put the plane in the warehouse, and there are photos of Delta and Southwest planes Stop in the California desert Become a creepy pandemic era symbol of the times.

Part of the problem is that their customers have changed—and they are still changing. The ticket setting process is one of the most complicated in the business world. Passengers on the same flight, even if they are in very similar seats, usually pay different prices, depending on where and when they buy the ticket. The internal team creates a pricing structure and schedule based on when passengers may purchase tickets. Vacationers looking for discounts tend to buy in advance, which is why airlines tend to offer the lowest prices for tickets purchased in advance. At the same time, business travelers buy closer to the flight time and are willing to pay more.

Since the pandemic in early 2020, most of the people who fly have tended to be leisure travelers.they are Book closer to their travel time than usual, Maybe because they are not sure how the coronavirus will affect their plans.

The influx of holiday travelers has changed airline schedules—and made them more willing to try less-traveled routes. In the past year, JetBlue Airways has increased its routes to the Caribbean. United Airlines has launched direct flights to Florida and its popular domestic resorts for the first time. As business travel continues to shrink, airlines have cleverly shifted from large traditional hubs to quaint routes: Milwaukee to Las Vegas; Boise, Idaho to New York; Des Moines to Portland, Oregon.

As airline trials continue, airlines and those who build pricing systems are testing other data sources to make better operational decisions. They use customer web searches and online notification requests to determine needs. Have many people signed up for the November notification of cheap flights to Las Vegas? Maybe the airline should arrange some additional flights that month. Barlow said that in the future, airlines hope to integrate other sources of information into their operations, such as mobile phone data, to tell them how full their competitors’ flights are in real time.

During the pandemic, “dynamic pricing”—providing specific fares for specific groups of people based on their flight history and real-time market conditions—has also picked up, with airlines imitating e-commerce companies to change prices based on real-time demand. Since the 1980s, airlines have changed seat prices in accordance with strictly regulated plans and sold tickets at predetermined prices. However, dynamically priced tickets can be changed at any time. For airlines, this is a holy grail, because it is expected to predict the price that customers are willing to pay almost perfectly. Studies have shown that more accurate pricing, not only for seats, but also for good things such as meals and extra legroom, can increase revenue by 5% to 15%.

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