How Manchester Airports Group and Ryanair worked alongside AWS to provide a better customer experience
Have you ever struggled to find your gate once at the airport?
Sometimes, the information displayed on applications that are produced by third parties can differ from the data displayed upon the flight information display screens (FIDS) that are located within airport terminals. This can cause confusion on the day of travel, especially if gate information changes.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the United Kingdom’s largest group of Airports that owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted, and East Midlands airports, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) collaborated with Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline group, to develop a near-real-time event platform. The aim was to improve the passenger experience on the day of travel for the 388 Ryanair flights that go through London Stansted and the 129 Ryanair flights out of Manchester that MAG handles daily during peak times.
Working with existing tools
MAG uses technology that is hosted in house to manage its airports, including stand and gate allocations. Members of the operations team and ground handling agents at MAG airports interact with this platform using various applications. When there is a gate change, employees enter the new information into the database, which then updates the FIDS.
Exposing in-house data
MAG feeds operational data from its in-house airport operational database (AODB) in-line with the events happening during daily operations. Using the AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS), a managed migration and replication service that helps move database and analytics workloads to AWS quickly and securely, MAG then facilitates change data capture (CDC) to publish all events into its private cluster in Amazon Managed Streaming for Apache Kafka (Amazon MSK), which makes it easy to ingest and process streaming data. This includes gate events in near real time.
After a change is made to gate information at the table level and published to Kafka, an in-house developed microservice running in Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS)—a fully managed container orchestration service that makes it easy to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications—detects the event. The microservice then performs a transformation from the CDC data and maps it to an agreed upon schema, and the data is published as a standardized JSON object.
This is then published to a public, fully managed Amazon MSK service instance, within a topic that is provided on a per-airline basis that is secured using certificates and IP ranges.
Ian Frawley, head of engineering at MAG said, “One of the many reasons that we chose Kafka is that it is an open technology that any airline or ground handler can easily subscribe to. This means that we can provide near-real-time updates to any interested party. By running our public Kafka instance within AWS, we benefit from a managed service as well.”
Consuming gate changes
Airlines, like Ryanair, can create infrastructure to ingest gate change events by subscribing to the Kafka topics exposed by MAG. After airlines ingest the events, they can publish the data to relevant customers using the relevant channels, such as push notifications, in their native mobile applications.
This facilitates consistency between what travelers see in airports and what they see in their airline web or mobile application, making the day of travel seamless.
As of December 2022, this functionality is available for Ryanair customers using London Stansted and Manchester airports, with plans to expand to other airports in the future.
Ian Frawley, head of engineering at MAG, said, “This is an agile collaboration between AWS, MAG, and Ryanair, which uses modern, robust tech in the interest of providing passengers the right information, at the right time.”
John Hudson, chief technology officer at MAG, said, “By working alongside both AWS and Ryanair, we connect and combine our unique insights, resulting in a more holistic view of our customers, helping us to offer personalized and seamless experiences while continuously improving our products and services.”
John Hurley, chief technology officer of Ryanair, said, “We are excited to work alongside AWS and MAG to make our customer experience in their airports as seamless as possible by providing live gate information as soon as it becomes available to us. This aligns with our Day of Travel initiative aimed at making the passenger journey as straightforward as possible.”
In this blog post, you learned how MAG quickly built an event-driven gate system on AWS and collaborated with Ryanair to improve the travel experience for its passengers. If you’re interested in learning how you can also improve passengers’ experiences, visit aws.com/travel or contact us.