Business Analytics Students Grapple with a Persistent Airline Industry Problem
Flight delays: Every traveler has dealt with them and dreads them ahead of every trip.
It’s an even bigger problem for the aviation industry, one that continues to evade solutions year in and year out, which made it ripe for exploration by students in LeBow’s MS in Business Analytics program as part of a project-based course in partnership with Freya Systems, a data analytics firm based in Media, Pennsylvania, and offered through LeBow’s Center for Business Analytics.
Throughout summer term, the students worked with a massive dataset from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, that captures years of flight delays across airports and carriers, from the airline industry’s biggest names down to regional carriers and commuter operators.
With the students sorted into groups and drawing on skills learned during their first year in the program, each group ultimately emerged with a classification model and a set of recommendations for Freya Systems, a 2023 Drexel LeBow Analytics 50 honoree, previously recognized in the 2021 Analytics 50.
After being introduced to the problem and the dataset by Freya Systems COO Chris MacNeel at the start of term, the students received guidance in approaching and managing the project from adjunct professor Bennett Foster, with additional expertise in modeling and analysis from Professor of Decision Sciences and MIS and Academic Director of the Center for Business Analytics Murugan Anandarajan, PhD, before a midterm check-in with MacNeel to assess their initial approaches.
MacNeel worked as a data scientist for many years before moving into his company’s C-suite, so his work experience lines up with the types of positions that many MS in Business Analytics students will pursue.
“Data analytics is a relatively new field from an academic perspective, so as an employer, it can be uncertain as to what kind of background to expect from universities in this technical area,” MacNeel says. “As I researched the business analytics courses at Drexel, I am impressed with the work they are doing to give students a working knowledge of data science and how to apply it to real-world business problems.”
Final presentations during August saw teams of students present both their findings from the data set and their models, with some groups opting for a dashboard-style interface for their presentations.
Alfreda Adote, MS Business Analytics ’24, served as one of the lead presenters for her group, and though she included an anecdote about dealing with flight delays as a passenger, she recognized the broader implications of the problem and how her team approached solving it.
“Meeting with the client on day one and being able to ask him questions consistently after was extremely helpful,” she said. “It helped us to understand what we were doing right or wrong, different perspectives that we needed to consider and whether or not we were on track to deliver the proper insights.
The entire experience of the class, she added, “highlighted for me the importance of being able to properly communicate with a client, how to navigate conflict and how to effectively manage the client’s requests.”