Melbourne Airport onboards Microsoft Azure to reimagine the passenger experience with reporting capabilities

Melbourne Airport is the second busiest airport in Australia, facilitating more than 4,500 flights a week and ensuring the safe passage of 2.2 million customers each month. As a critical service and 24/7 operation, it has around 20,000 direct employees working at any time.

The company experienced a surge in growth and market share during its recovery from the COVID pandemic. New flight routes, new partner airlines and reopening borders meant that the airport needed to gear up for more flights, passengers and staff. The company realised it needed to invest heavily in improving the experiences it offered passengers and staff.

A priority was to revamp the airport’s data analytics platform to enable employees to easily access large amounts of data. The primary objective was to enable them to conduct data analytics and unlock business intelligence without relying on extensive IT infrastructure or technical expertise. The innovative solution, built in partnership with Microsoft’s Aviation, Transport & Automotive Data Specialist team, is the airport’s new data analytics platform.

What is the market offering of the new platform?

The platform runs entirely on Microsoft Azure, using Azure Databricks and Azure Synapse Analytics to give Melbourne Airport visibility and insights from its data. It’s helping the firm improve efficiency and enhance passenger experiences with real-time information and assistance. It helps to increase safety and security, and effectively manage airport resources.

Enhancing reporting capabilities

Melbourne Airport’s previous system didn’t allow employees to easily draw their own reports from the firm’s data. The company wanted a platform that would democratise the data so anyone could generate the insights they needed without requiring expertise in a specific tech, and without compromising data security or the privacy of the airport’s staff and customers.

It partnered with the Microsoft and Databricks teams to conduct a data envisioning workshop to understand the value and capabilities of Azure data services and Databricks in unlocking the data opportunity. The platform was built using a blend of Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2, Azure Databricks, Azure SQL and dedicated SQL pools.

The solution is easy to manage and can scale to support Melbourne Airport’s ambitious and dynamic growth strategy. This also includes enabling future use cases leveraging AI/ML tech.

Driving operational efficiency

The insights that the airport’s new data analytics platform offers help employees streamline processes and reduce operational inefficiencies by meeting passenger needs actively instead of reactively. For example, the platform allows better visibility into how many passengers are checking in for flights and how quickly lines are moving. This in turn informs how many lines should be open at baggage check or border security to accommodate incoming passengers.

The new data analytics platform also helps in allocating resources. For example, staff can compile reports to predict how many cleaning vendor contracts the airport might need in a given week by drawing on data, such as the number of staff in the airport and the number of cars using the parking lot, to understand the volume of activity through the airport.

Melbourne Airport also hopes to introduce predictive maintenance and analysis capabilities using Internet of Things data and Microsoft’s AI tools. This will enable the airport to monitor the safety and compliance of important infrastructure like lights on airplane landing strips.

Partnering for greater impact

Melbourne Airport’s partnership with Microsoft is a key pillar in supporting its ambitious digital transformation journey. Tomai and the company’s Data Lead, Irfan Khan, have established a strong executive partnership with Microsoft’s Data & AI team and remain jointly committed to unlocking digital capabilities through investment in skills development.

The airport conducts bi-weekly training sessions and technical enablement for its employees with the Microsoft Data & artificial intelligence team. Microsoft also continues to provide support and recommendations for best practice as Melbourne Airport completes the project.

The company is looking to expand the scope of its data analytics platform by increasing the availability of data sets for other units. It plans to leverage better data visibility and insights to support its sustainability strategy as it works towards net zero emissions by 2030.

What does the partnership mean for stakeholders?

Commenting on the partnership, Anthony Tomai, Chief Information Officer at Melbourne Airport, said, “Melbourne Airport is not just an airport. We’re also a retail precinct and a ground transport operation. Our vision is to be Australia’s favourite airport destination.” 

“We have always had huge ambitions around improving the way we serve our customers. We want the passenger journey through the airport to be as seamless, comfortable and efficient as possible. From a technological perspective, achieving this is all about our data and what insight it can give us about the journey,” Anthony Tomai further commented.

“Melbourne Airport’s data management and analytics capabilities have been enhanced by the implementation of a data lakehouse on Microsoft Azure. This has enabled the organisation to acquire valuable insights into their operations, customers and performance, leading to more informed decision-making,” says Xianping Wu, Chief Solution Architect at Melbourne Airport.

Lee Hickin, National Chief Technology Officer ANZ at Microsoft
Lee Hickin, National Chief Technology Officer ANZ at Microsoft

“Melbourne Airport is an extremely important partner for us. A typical daily international flight is estimated to contribute as much as $109m to the Victorian economy and supports over 1,000 jobs per year,” commented Lee Hickin, CTO at Microsoft Australia and New Zealand.

“We are excited to help such an important contributor to the economy invest in the right tech so it can continue to provide critical services in an efficient, reliable and informed way.”