Creating intelligence from big data

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Nils Gelbjerg-Hansen is chief executive of Danish data and advanced analytics company Infare, which applies a database of more than 700 billion airfares to help its customers maximise their profitability.

How did you get started in the aviation business?

I first founded a company with my childhood friends called “bestpriceEU”, which was a price comparison search engine for consumer products. Success back then was not measured by profit but rather by the amount of people interested in and using the product. We were “successful” but wanted a more financially viable business. One day my friend Philip sat next to a friend from Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), on a flight to New York. SAS, it turned out, needed to understand the impact low-cost carriers and the internet were having on airfares. Realising we were very good at helping airlines structure and analyse this information, we changed our business model, acquired new investors and never looked back.

What have been the highlights of you career?

The fact that my career has allowed me to actively pursue the goal we set 17 years ago is a personal triumph. What is even more exciting is that even though our solutions are used by hundreds of customers worldwide, we are far from being done. Also, even though we have acquired some exciting team members along the way, I am still working with largely the same group of people that we started with.

Tell us about Infare?

Infare provides high-quality airfare data and advanced analysis tools to airlines and airports globally. We have grown in leaps and bounds since our launch. Today, we collect 1.5 billion airfares and deliver more than 2.5 billion airfare observations on a daily basis to our customers. More than 250 airlines and airports worldwide trust us for accurate and usable data. Through our analytics products, Pharos, Altus and Airports, we help revenue and pricing managers, analysts and route and network planners do detailed analyses of current and historic competitor pricing, which helps maximise flight and route profitability.

What are your plans for Infare?

Airlines and airports need more actionable information than ever. Through our data platform capabilities and our massive data volume, there’s much more we can do to help airlines optimise their revenue potential through advanced business intelligence (BI), such as predictions and alerts. Our recent acquisition of QL2’s aviation business will enable Infare to be an even stronger partner for our customers. As a larger business, we are better placed to keep investing in new products and services to underpin our customers’ profitability.

How is the business intelligence industry evolving?

The growth of airfare distribution over the internet, and the fact that customers, thanks to tools like Momondo and Kayak, are becoming more price-savvy, means airlines need advanced tools to be as well or better informed about the competitive situation as their customers. It is now crucial to have access to tools that are able to process huge amounts of data and turn it into information that you can reliably act on. Advances in ultra-fast machine learning are supporting advances in BI, like just-in-time forecasting, airfare predictions and alerts. By applying mathematics and machine learning technologies to our database of more than 700 billion airfares, we have been able to rapidly progress in this direction.

What are your big challenges?

Now having 250-plus customers worldwide makes it a bigger task for us to stay close to our users. However, we have just doubled the size of our account management team. Another challenge is to source talented people as quickly as we need them. Airlines have an appetite for innovation, particularly around BI tools. We are growing faster every year and are constantly looking for more talent.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Definitely the people I work with, from my colleagues to our partners and their customers. I love a challenge, and it is even more stimulating to work with people who have the skills and attitude to overcome any obstacle.

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