How Splunk Is Helping Gatwick Airport Keep Up The Heathrow Rivalry

gatwick airport

Gatwick Airport implemented Splunk last year and claims to have already seen a number of improvements with passenger processing and aircraft turnarounds

London’s Gatwick Airport has improved its flight capacity and aircraft turnaround times with the help of data analytics software provider Splunk.

Dealing with up to 925 flights a day, and scheduled to carry almost 40 million passengers in and out of London in 2016, Gatwick is the world’s busiest single runway airport and competes with the likes of Frankfurt and San Diego, not to mention London rival Heathrow.

Joe Hardstaff, a business systems architect at Gatwick, explained at this year’s .Conf Splunk user show how the IT teams at Gatwick implemented Splunk in July 2014 to enable Gatwick to fly more passengers than any other airport in the UK.

splunk“The passenger experience is important for us,” said Hardstaff. “It’s all about you the passenger. If I told you that you could get through Gatwick in no time at all and probably wouldn’t have to queue then you’d want to come here.”

With Splunk, Hardstaff claims this is a reality.

“We pride ourselves on our on-time efficiency,” said Hardstaff. “Reliability, performance, security for all of that is paramount for us. From the curb to the gate and back again, all the IT systems that support that journey are key for us.

Hardstaff said these systems range from automatic number plate recognition, to check in and bag drop, through security, and into the departure lounge and onto the plane. All the data from these systems is routed through Splunk to gain crucial business intelligence.

Gatwick Airport started using Splunk in July 2014, where a number of problems were immediately identified, said Hardstaff.

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“Splunk enabled us to identify a number of performance gains, so much so in fact that as an international passenger now flying out through Gatwick, when you scan your boarding pass it will take five seconds or less for a validation to come through. That enables us to get a much faster throughput through security and helped us to almost completely eliminate queuing,” said Hardstaff.

Splunk is used from scanning boarding passes to ensure passengers are at the right airport, at the right terminal, on the right day, to dealing with stock pre-recorded messages for public announcements, providing insight into issues and bugs.

“Now, I can say with some confidence that 95 percent of passengers coming into Gatwick will go through central search within five minutes,” he said.

Gatwick said that Splunk also helped identify problems that were otherwise not known yet. “We suddenly saw odd patterns that Splunk helped us with,” said Hardstaff.


Splunk also aids Gatwick Airport security with its Threat Image Projection (TIP) system, a piece of software that helps security officers identify prohibited items in luggage. “What it does is it superimposes an image of an item you’re not allowed to take through over the x-ray of your bag. That item can be anything, including revolvers, or explosives.”

With Splunk, Gatwick also claims to be able to deeply analyse passenger information. “This allows us to inform security what flights are departing, when they were coming in through security, and predict who was coming in,” Hardstaff said.

splunkHe said this is important because it gives the teams on the ground a heads up with what languages they will need to communicate in in case of an incident. “What Splunk enables us to do is highlight passengers that are coming in and then change communication style to a more appropriate method.”

Bigger challenge

Moving to outside the terminal, Splunk benefits Gatwick by allowing the airfield team insights into aircraft turnaround procedures.

Part of the Splunk improvement enabled Gatwick, which uses just one runway, to achieve an increase in number of slots for landing and takeoff from 52 to 55 slots per hour, with the help of Amadeus-provided Airport-Collaborative Decision Making Portal (A-CDM). “That’s not an insignificant amount of money when it comes to additional revenue,” said Hardstaff.

The airfield performance team were able to implement Splunk for an airfield dashboard to get insights into the waves of flights throughout the day. Ground crews are then able to monitor turnaround times and reduce delays with the wealth of data flowing through the systems carried by Splunk.

“Since then, we’ve been competing with Heathrow for additional passengers, and indeed, an additional runway,” said Hardstaff.

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