Across the travel industry, the availability of accurate and up-to-date information on global air traffic flows, airline capacity performance, ticketing data, bookings (reservations), flight searches (traveller intent), and behaviour is mission-critical for a range of stakeholders.  

While bodies such as government agencies, airlines, or airports provide headline insights through the global air traffic statistics they publish, these are often broad, high-level aggregates, and in many cases released with a time lag of six months or more. Additionally, due to human error, commercial concerns or inconsistency in reporting periods or methodology, the variance between these sources can be as high as 30%.   

As the industry leader in air big data and travel intelligence, ForwardKeys is uniquely able to fill that information gap, providing more comprehensive global airline traffic data, with greater recency and unmatched levels of detail. Our advanced travel analytics products and Data-as-a-Service platform give customers the insights they need to stay ahead of the market, predict trends with greater confidence and accurately guide operational strategy. 

In this article, we’ve looked at five areas where ForwardKeys data offers a significant competitive advantage over relying on official air travel statistics alone — and the difference it makes to our customers in terms of business outcomes. 

1. Unmatched Global Coverage

Breadth and depth of data is other key factor for organisations looking to glean actionable insights. If your data is missing important elements, you’re operating at a disadvantage and may be unaware of sector-specific indicators which impact your business model. ForwardKeys supplies the most comprehensive global data in the industry, so you’ve always got the most complete picture possible and can plan and strategize accordingly.  

We have extensive worldwide coverage, with over 900 airlines handling 44 million flights annually. Our comprehensive database includes 4,750 airports and more than 70,000 unique routes connecting them. 

Low-cost carriers 

One often-encountered issue with official figures is that they underreport or omit data for budget carriers operating out of low-cost airports. We use a combination of sources and our unique data science expertise to fill in the gaps in this data when official statistics are unavailable, providing a more transparent, more comprehensive picture of the overall network, hybrid, and budget airline activity across the entire air market. Our data includes 180 low-cost carriers worldwide, which is essential for destinations dominated by these airlines.  

Source markets 

Another common omission from official airline statistics is detailed information on source markets, making it difficult to visualise market dynamics and volatility. ForwardKeys data provides detailed insights into the origin market and enables in-depth source market analysis, allowing you to discover potential opportunities, travel intent, and unserved routes. Our data products allow our customers to identify drivers of demand and implement location-targeted marketing campaigns to address key origin markets.  


Careful attention to data science, regardless of source, is what makes ForwardKeys data the de facto industry standard when it comes to benchmarking your performance against other markets or competitors. By using our advanced analytical dashboards or Data Smarts, you can make more effective like-for-like comparisons and accurately position yourself within the competitive industry landscape. 

Non-revenue passengers 

Unlike many airline sources, our data also considers both revenue and non-revenue passenger counts — including award travellers, deadhead crew, technical staff, and airline staff travelling on specific routes, which may represent up to 5% of total passengers.

2. Data Fidelity

For any organisation working in or adjacent to the travel industry, access to quality data is invaluable for informed decision-making. While official airline traffic data are generally highly accurate, they often lack the detail, consistency and timeliness needed to stay abreast of fast-moving markets. That’s where ForwardKeys shines — offering customers the most comprehensive data on the market, at unrivalled levels of quality. 

Multi-layer perspective 

Unlike official statistics, our data offers a multi-layered perspective analysis of more than 71K routes. It allows for an in-depth examination of flight and airline metrics such as capacity, load factor, connectivity, CO2 emissions, aircraft type, and more. On top of that, it enables analysis of passenger profiles associated with these flights. 


The high-level airline traffic data provided by limited official airline statistics are an excellent starting point for selective analyses but lack the precise detail needed to make targeted decisions on marketing, sales or competitive strategy.  

ForwardKeys enables far more granular analysis, allowing you to drill down into route, airport, terminal or gate, and flight schedule to accurately segment the data — supporting effective commercial and operational decision-making. 


Official airline traffic data sources may also have limited or unavailable historical views due to archiving constraints — which makes it difficult to make accurate year-on-year comparisons or spot background trends developing over time. ForwardKeys offers a complete historical view of normalized data up to 10 years in the past, without structural differences in the data, allowing accurate analysis with the same granularity and data structure.  


To make data-driven decisions with confidence, organisations need access to the most up-to-date information possible. Unfortunately, many official data sources only offer quarterly or annual updates, so recently emerging patterns may go unnoticed. We’re unmatched when it comes to updates, refreshing all of our available data every week, so you’re always looking at the current picture. 

3. Visitor-Level Data

Another weakness of official air travel statistics is a lack of detail at the individual passenger level. While macro data is extremely useful in some contexts, the type of detailed analysis necessary to segment and target individual groups of travellers requires more depth. ForwardKeys customers benefit here — with the ability to drill down into visitor-level air travel data and understand market shifts from a traveller perspective.  

Economic impact 

Our data provide a visitor view, reporting on the cabin class flown in line with the length of stay, which allows you to understand key economic or social impact factors. This is important for customers looking to accurately forecast visitor purchasing behaviour, and develop targeted marketing strategies based on how long visitors spend in a destination.  

Itinerary views 

While official global air traffic statistics provide only headcount figures, ForwardKeys offer a more complete picture of traveller itineraries which differentiates between transit and final destination visitors up to the terminal or even the gate level, as well as specifying the number of accompanied travellers and size of groups. This level of granularity allows for a more precise understanding of visitor behaviour and trends.   

Passenger profiles 

Compared to the air traffic statistics published from official sources, our products offer a much deeper understanding of passenger profiles, including key information such as cabin class, nationalities, dwelling times, the purpose of travel, point of sale and more — helping our customers to better understand their target audience at an individual level, across 44 million annual flights, and tailor their marketing efforts accordingly.

4. Data Quality

On a more technical note, the normalisation, quality control or standardisation of data is crucial to being able to make accurate comparisons across different data sets. While the majority of official data sources follow their consistent standards internally, unfortunately, these are not necessarily harmonized between sources — causing issues when you decide to merge data from different sources together. 


One of the factors that can impact data accuracy over time is the availability of baseline sources and the quality of data submitted. As time passes, new data becomes available, and the quality and accuracy of existing data may also change. This can impact the accuracy of predictive models that rely on historical data to forecast future trends. At ForwardKeys we have a dedicated team of aviation experts who constantly monitor changes in market data and proactively address any issues, ensuring the exceptional quality, maturity and reliability of our global air data. 


Official bodies may use different methodologies for data collection and storage, making it difficult and time-consuming to normalise the data. Our big-data travel analysts collate data from a broad range of sources and normalise it using a consistent data-science methodology, so importing, manipulating and analysing the information is straightforward and the risk of introducing inadvertent errors is eliminated.   

5. Predictive Analytics

Accessing up-to-date airline booking and ticketing data is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to optimising your marketing and growth strategy. The key to success is being able to predict what new trends and changes in traveller behaviour and intent are emerging, and when it’s the right time to act. That’s where ForwardKeys’ predictive analysis makes a vital difference.  


Unlike the major traditional statistics sources, which give you an as-is report on the position of key indicators, ForwardKeys empowers you with reliable forecasts from 12 months up to ten years ahead, derived from multi-source big-data models and artificial intelligence. This unique capability enables you to make strategic decisions with confidence, staying ahead of the curve — and the competition — in a dynamic and ever-changing global air market.   

Growth patterns 

By providing more detailed passenger profile data — such as nationality, lead time, pair travel, and purpose and length of stay— our data enables you to plot seasonal growth patterns and identify which trends are most likely to sustain over time. While using official statistics gives you high-level figures, what ForwardKeys adds to the air passenger dataset are the leading indicators that will help you to predict where you should target your resources and spending to maximise ROI over the longer term. 


With granular data on CO2 emissions at the individual passenger level, ForwardKeys enables you to assess, compare and predict the environmental impact of trips based on the route, carriers, capacity and other factors — an increasingly crucial metric for both regulatory compliance and consumer concerns around carbon footprints. 

Working with ForwardKeys means more than just unmatchable data. 

ForwardKeys is a prominent player in the field of big data travel analytics — offering unparalleled insights into the global air market since 2010.​ Our deep aviation expertise encompasses data on worldwide air travellers, capacity, searches, bookings, ticketing, behaviour, profiling, and much more.​   

That’s why our data enjoys broad recognition and significant usage across the travel and tourism industry. Respected thought leaders and associations, including the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), City Destinations Alliance, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), consistently reference ForwardKeys data and insights in their publications.  

But it doesn’t end there. As well as providing the data, insights and forecasts for which we’re known, we offer a supportive and proactive service wrap, responding to your queries and enquiries, running interactive sessions to help you analyse and interpret our data, and tailoring our solutions to your unique needs wherever possible. It’s a level far above what you can expect from traditional statistics providers. 

That’s how, month on month, our solutions deliver significant competitive advantages to almost 200 clients across a range of travel-related and other industries — enabling leadership to make data-driven strategic marketing decisions and seize emerging opportunities in their respective sectors.  

If you’d like to discover how ForwardKeys data and technological proficiency could deliver similar results for your organisation, get in touch to find out which of our products would best fit your needs.


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2023-07-12T09:29:14+02:0011/07/2023|All, DMO|
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