British Airways has introduced artificial intelligence (AI) to its airside operation at Heathrow Terminal 5 to ensure its flights are punctual and safe.

The airline currently uses manual processes to keep track of 18 different activities that need to be completed before an aircraft can depart – including cleaning of the interiors, unloading and reloading catering, luggage and cargo, and refuelling. According to BA, an issue affecting just one of these tasks has the potential to disrupt the entire turn-around process and delay the flight’s departure.

Now the carrier is using a network of cameras set up around the aircraft stand by technology start-up Assaia – one of the companies that went through BA parent International Airlines Group’s Hanger 51 accelerator programme.

AI is then employed to compare live footage of the turnaround process with the proposed schedule. If the technology detects any issues that could put the aircraft at risk of a delay, an alert is sent to the manager in charge of the turn via a smart watch informing them of the problem. BA says this empowers managers to take action to get the process back on track.

In the first stage of the trial, BA and Assaia have installed four cameras on three stands at Terminal 5.

According to the airline, the data captured by the technology can also help it increase the efficiency of its entire operation.

Raghbir S Pattar, BA’s director of airports, said: “British Airways operates up to 800 flights a day to and from Heathrow; we run a highly complex operation, so efficient turnarounds are critical to ensure all 145,000 customers travelling through our home hub every day enjoy a punctual departure. Artificial intelligence is a rapidly evolving area of technology and I’m thrilled that we’re the first airline in the world to harness it to further improve our customers’ journeys through the airport.”

Max Diez, CEO of Assaia International added: “Our entire team is really excited to be working with British Airways – an airline that is prioritising innovation and sees the value of AI-powered solutions. We’re eager to work with the airline to maximise the potential that the technology has to improve operations.”

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