How Gatwick Airport uses Splunk analytics dashboards to get passengers through security in less than five minutes

Airport Tower

Gatwick has some stringent targets for getting customers through security and to the plane on time, and it is using data analytics to keep staff and the airlines on their toes

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Gatwick is using Splunk dashboards to keep its security and operations staff up to the minute as they target zero queueing time through its two terminals.

There was some laughter in the audience as Splunk CEO Doug Merritt said Gatwick Airport was getting customers through security in under five minutes during his first morning keynote of their annual conference.

However Chris Howell, head of business systems at Gatwick Airport, is aiming even higher, saying: “We want zero queue from curb to gate,” he said. “So we genuinely want seamless and completely believe it is possible for a number of reasons.”

Gatwick is monitored by a number of organisations like the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and EU regulators to ensure that they are running on time, setting a benchmark of 95 percent of passengers passing through security in less than five minutes.

Read next: Gatwick Airport plans £73 million IT operations overhaul

Howell seemingly couldn’t resist a dig at their arch-rival Heathrow Airport, saying: “You will find at other airports they don’t have to hit five minutes actually, which is interesting. Even at some of their newer terminals.”

Dashboards

Howell uses Splunk to power a number of real time dashboards for airport staff, from security to airfield operations, presenting data from sensors dotted through the terminals on passenger flows and queue times.

For example, security staff have overhead monitors with dashboards showing metrics like trays per hour and the number of customers coming through versus what they were expecting. 

Splunk allows Howell to not only produce dashboards like this but also to push it out to the airlines themselves to see if they are running on time, “so you hopefully foster competition in the interest of the passenger,” he said.

Read next: Gatwick Airport plans to create ‘single source of customer data’

This dashboard is then put through a different lens - to use Splunk’s parlance - for Gatwick’s airfield staff. "So our airfield dashboard pulls in a number of bits of data as well as that feed. They used to have to run that in spreadsheets three, four, five times a day, more when there were disruption events. So they reckon we are saving them anywhere between four and eight man hours a day," he said.

Self-serve bag drop

Howell says he is constantly looking at ways to smooth the customer experience and get these metrics down, removing or automating steps along the way where the technology allows him to.

Gatwick recently put self-serve baggage drops in the North Terminal for customers travelling with Easyjet and has already seen great results. He said: “If you look at the new self-serve bag drop in the North Terminal with Easyjet, we have seen 95 of passengers through check-in in less than ten minutes.”

Howell says that Gatwick is already looking at three more airlines providing self-serve bag drop within the next three months, "and we will drive towards that because the numbers don’t lie".

Now Howell is investigating whether they can replace the Triple A checks (‘accounting and authorising’ passenger baggage) and remove another manual step in the process.

Read next: Splunk brings machine learning capabilities into its tools and launches toolkit for customer’s own algorithms

Howell is also looking at Splunk’s new machine learning capabilities to do things like predictive maintenance on baggage belts.

Security

Finally, when asked if Gatwick is looking at Splunk’s security monitoring capabilities he said: “We are currently investigating how we use Splunk to help us in those areas, it’s highly likely that we will.

“When you look at what it can do with disparate data sets, viewing the same data through more than one lens, there are clear benefits from the strengths of Splunk that can be applied with a security lens.”

Read next: Travis Perkins uses Splunk’s flexible cyber security monitoring to protect against customer data breaches

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