EU Rule Change Could Give Airlines Access To Aircraft Data

Lufthansa A350-900
Lufthansa Airbus A350-900
Credit: Lufthansa

German carrier Lufthansa has flagged a potential sea-change in aircraft-data access, triggered by a European regulatory proposal that would make it mandatory for manufacturers to share operating data with aircraft owners.

In a policy brief released on Sept. 5, Lufthansa said the European Commission’s Data Act paves the way for airlines to access and control their operating data. 

“Anyone who purchases a connected device is entitled to know the data relevant to its use. What sounds obvious was not the case until now,” Lufthansa said, referring to the Data Act regulatory proposal.

Lufthansa said this offers “enormous opportunities” for airlines to access their data and share it with third-party suppliers—such as maintenance companies, small businesses, startups and universities—which could develop new flight-optimization products. This could potentially reduce original equipment manufacturer (OEM) control over after-market services.

“A general reference to ‘business secrets’ [in the regulatory proposal] must not be used to delay, or even prevent, this important project,” Lufthansa said. “Aircraft manufacturers are often concerned about maintaining trade secrets and the associated protection of intellectual property. The Data Act, on the other hand, refers exclusively to the data that can be recorded and utilized during operation. By analyzing this operational data, neither the aircraft nor individual components can be reproduced.”

Lufthansa aircraft generate around 2.5 terabytes of data per day, but this goes directly to the manufacturers. Lufthansa said getting access to this data involves laborious negotiations. “As a result, aircraft manufacturers are expanding their data monopoly and offering exclusive services that are only available via their platforms,” Lufthansa said.

Access to data—ideally in real time—will enable airlines to better analyze and optimize their fuel consumption and would also give new options for predictive maintenance. “This would create new business models and better competition,” Lufthansa said.

The German carrier called on the EU Parliament and Council to approve and implement the Data Act as soon as possible.

It appears that Lufthansa’s take on the regulatory proposal is accurate, based on a confirmation of the implications for aviation which was sourced independently from a European Commission (EC) spokesperson.

“Airlines would be a beneficiary of the Data Act, in relation to data generated by aircraft they own or rent,” an EC spokesperson said. “Under the proposal for the Data Act, airlines would have a right to receive a copy of the data generated by the aircraft operations and be able to provide access to third parties of their choice.”

The Data Act proposal still needs to pass through the various European institutions before it becomes law. Aircraft manufacturer and airline feedback will be considered, as part of normal EU stakeholder consultations.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.