A Westminster alumnus who graduated from the University with a Data Mining MSc degree (now Business Intelligence and Analytics MSc) has been appointed as easyJet’s first ever Head of Data Science after his final university project helped to generate millions of pounds.

Alberto Rey-Villaverde, who graduated in 2011, has been appointed Head of Data Science to accelerate the airline’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of improving efficiency, reducing cost and increasing revenue and customer satisfaction.

Alberto’s dissertation project entitled ‘Artificial Pricing Manager: an expert system based on data mining tools within easyJet’s Revenue Management System’ helped easyJet make significant savings which triggered the airline’s interest in setting up the permanent Data Science Unit headed by Alberto.

The novelty of Alberto’s university project resided on the use of data mining tools to model Pricing Manager behaviour and take price decisions for the airline. The coursework explained how the Pricing Managers’ knowledge has been gathered by applying so called supervise learning data mining techniques. The results have been used to create an artificial intelligence system which makes price decisions in a real market environment.

Artificial intelligence works by using computer programmes to analyse huge pools of data. Traditional computing simply records and orders such data whereas advanced computing using artificial intelligence starts to use this data to predict and provide for future events. For example, it can predict the failure of a component so that it can be replaced in a planned fashion avoiding an unexpected failure which could cause a flight delay; or it can predict the sort of demand for certain items of food and drink on each flight so that supplies match customer demand without running out or carrying an excess amount.

Alberto‎ Rey-Villaverde, Head of Data Science for easyJet, said: “To date analytics has been about diagnostic capability and looking backwards. Now advanced artificial intelligence is more focused on predictive capability so we can better understand the future and plan for it.”

The Westminster graduate joined easyJet in 2006 and has held a number of roles including his previous title of Yield Strategy and Development Manager.

Professor Thierry Chaussalet, Project Supervisor and Business Intelligence and Analytics MSc Course Leader, said: “Alberto was a very motivated part-time student and saw very early on the potential for applying the data mining and analytics techniques learnt on the course to generate revenue at easyJet. His insight and determination enabled him to complete his project with distinction four months earlier than is usual for part-time students.”

The Business Intelligence and Analytics MSc course in the Faculty of Science and Technology addresses the need to propel information gathering and data organisation, and exploit potential information and knowledge hidden in routinely collected data to improve decision making. The course, which builds on the strengths of two successful courses on data mining and on decision sciences, is more technology focused, and stretches the data-mining and decision-sciences theme to the broader agenda of business intelligence.

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