Years of wasted time and out-dated processes are on the point of elimination with the launch of RDC’s latest innovation, LOOP. Working with some of the most trusted names in the industry, RDC has developed a technology-led solution to one of the most frustrating problems encountered by airports and airlines - how to securely manage and exchange core data. The first application to be launched on the LOOP platform will solve problems for finance departments by facilitating the permission-led sharing of aircraft data used for billing.
This complements RDC’s airportcharges.com which has been unique, since its launch in 2002, in providing access to user charges, documents and landing fee calculations for over 3,000 airports. In use with the world’s major airlines, operators, regulators and airports, the platform has provided over 2 million cost calculations (since 2015) enabling its users to accurately estimate landing, passenger and environmental charges at any airport in the system.
Looking for opportunities to increase efficiency in airport and airline processes with technology-driven services, is a core part of RDC’s strategy. Through customer feedback, it became apparent that both sides of the billing equation shared frustrations at the time taken to provide / collate, produce and recompile aircraft data that is used to generate invoices from airports to airlines. A patchwork of different data structures and requirements has previously required data providers (Airlines) to produce multiple data formats to the end-users (Airports). Airports then need to validate and consolidate this data into a single format. Much time is wasted at both ends of this data loop which inevitably leads to data integrity and accuracy issues.
The LOOP data distribution platform is a new way of connecting time-sensitive and financially-critical data.
Airline / operator
Airports need up-to-date information on various aircraft characteristics in order to raise invoices for landing fees, noise/emission charges and other billing categories that are determined by the operating aircraft. Typically, they ask operators to provide details of their fleet once or twice a year, often requiring specific fields in a certain format.
Operators receive similar requests from most of the airports to which they fly. The format airports require for their finance systems is often not the same and the onus is on the operator to cut their data into the required format. This takes time and can lead to errors which result in incorrect invoices being received.
Finance teams often don’t have the depth of knowledge to know whether the basic data used to generate invoices has been provided by the operator itself, or researched by the airport. Without this knowledge it becomes very challenging to know if invoices should be investigated. This undermines cost efficiency programmes and increases inefficiency.
Airports either research aircraft themselves or ask operators to provide details of their fleet, often requiring specific fields in a certain format. Data is collated on an airline-by-airline basis with date, weight and measurement units often in different formats and with inconsistent field headings. Finance systems require consistent data to ensure a successful upload and it can take significant manual effort to re-format operator data into the required data structure.
Using public-domain or generic data means invoices could be generated from out-of-date or inaccurate data. Airlines with robust invoice approval procedures pick up on these discrepancies and reject invoices. This requires another round of data validation before correcting the errors which both wastes time and negatively affects cash flow.
It sounds obvious that for the generator - and recipient - of invoices, that the base data on which the invoice has been calculated is correct. In every sector we see the importance of using verified measurement devices for any weight-based charges, from dry foods to passenger checked baggage. However, the data flow between airports and airlines on which movement, environmental and size-based charges are calculated can be based on data acquired from a third-party or researched using open-source websites.
Dealing with multiple different international systems, whether that’s date formats, weight and distance measurement units or how items are labelled, means airport finance teams regularly have to deal with unfamiliar yet critical data. Assembling that data into a consistent and usable format takes time - some larger airports may spend up to three months per year working on it.
For airlines and operators, providing their core data to airports across multiple countries who require different data structures is a time-consuming and frustrating problem.
Finance teams are faced with greater pressures than ever to make sure invoiced values match with the service delivered or contracted. Research shows that 36% of operators do not have the systems in place to confidently audit invoices from airports; and of those that do, most operators are unable to validate whether the issuing airport has used the correct core data when creating it's invoices.
As a result, some operators approve invoices by matching the received values to their budgeted expectation rather than verifying that the amount is correct. Others compare current to previous year as a sense-check, while some use their resources to spot obvious, large errors or undertake random sampling to determine whether invoices are wrong.
In all of the above cases, improving the information flow between operators and airports is the answer. The current method of transferring data is so time consuming most airports can only undertake this once or (at most) twice per year. The LOOP data distribution platform provides a seamless distribution process that creates significant time savings on both sides of the billing cycle, while increasing accuracy and confidence in generating (and auditing) invoices which saves time and money.
Operators should be empowered to maintain their core billing data in the most efficient way - without having to re-format it for specific system requirements.
Airports should be able to pick-up the data they require from a common source, originating with the airline and validated by a neutral intermediary, choosing fields they require, in the format they need it, to feed the finance system.
In the initial LOOP service, airlines maintain their data in one place and, through a permission-led structure, enable airports - or any other service provider /partner - to access the data they require to power their systems. RDC audits the data, verifying against certification documents to ensure data is valid and error-free. Airlines and operators can see which airports use their data, meaning they can be confident the correct base data is being used to create invoices. Airports can be certain that consistent and correct data, provided by the operator, is being used within their finance systems. They have the flexibility to re-order, re-name and group data fields together, change units and structure before extracting it in a format that can be uploaded into the finance or AODB system.
LOOP billing data is the first service to be built on the LOOP data distribution platform. Development to date has been heavily influenced by our beta partners and the continued feedback we are receiving is helping to shape further enhancements. Airlines and airports are already identifying a range of other uses for a technology and permission-led distribution platform, both within and between businesses.
If you’re an operator looking to future-proof your fleet distribution; an airport looking to save time and increase the accuracy of billing data; or want to help shape the next stages of LOOP development, please get in touch at email@example.com or via the Loop website.