Air France-KLM taps jet data to defend maintenance share

Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:49am EDT
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By Cyril Altmeyer

PARIS (Reuters) - Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA: Quote) is tapping data from sensors on modern jets to bolster its position as the second-largest independent supplier of jet maintenance but faces a tug of war with planemakers over the profits to be made from Big Data.

Maintenance is one of the most profitable activities of the Franco-Dutch airline group, whose French passenger operations have been engulfed by strikes and restructuring, but planemakers are also seeking a slice of the $65 billion overhaul market.

The weapons in this latest aircraft industry battle are bits and bytes, rather than the nuts and bolts of a repair hangar.

Sensors on newer jets provide vast amounts of information on the performance of parts, and Air France-KLM's maintenance boss believes airlines have the edge over planemakers, because they can put the stream of data to better use.

"The (manufacturers) are designing the data and they are very well placed to understand and analyze the data. We are an operator, we know exactly what to do with the data," Franck Terner, head of Air France-KLM's maintenance and engineering division, told Reuters in an interview.

Aerospace is one of many industries grappling with the challenges and possibilities of "digitalization," using rich data to improve production or develop new services.

Armed with growing databanks, planemakers Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) and Boeing (BA.N: Quote) are gradually following the lead of engine makers, who make much of their money from maintenance.

But consolidation in the sector has given their airline customers more bargaining power.   Continued...

An employee works on an Airbus A380 plane inside the Air France KLM maintenance hangar at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, France, May 31, 2016.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer