Manchester Airports Group

Transforming aviation at Manchester Airports Group

How innovative data strategies enabled best-in-class customer experiences for millions of passengers

A major airport is like a large, vibrant city. 60m passengers passed through Manchester Airports Group’s (MAG) three airports last year alone. Think of all the different car parks, shops, hotels, restaurants and quiet spaces to pray that make up a typical airport. And that’s before you consider the logistics of the airfield itself, and the related critical infrastructure. Despite these complexities, MAG has been focussed on a simple but powerful strategy: to deliver a great experience to passengers, while managing risks in a highly regulated environment.

At its heart, MAG’s strategy relies on the right information reaching the right people at the right time. For example, something as simple as informing passengers that they should proceed to their gate requires multiple timely data sources to be gathered, combined, verified and communicated. In the past, this wasn’t as easy as it could have been, with multiple third party tools operating in silos – not allowing for the seamless flow of data across the airport.

MAG wanted to harness the event-driven nature of their environment, in order to visualise and automate key interconnected services. They engaged Equal Experts to help create a strategic data integration vision across their three airports – Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands, that would enable them to achieve their goals.

  • Approx 60m


  • A modern

    airport-specific data strategy

About the client:

Manchester Airports Groups is a leading airport group that owns and operates three UK airports - London Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands. Last year, the Group served 54 million passengers, and employed more than 7,000 people directly, supporting a total of over 40,000 jobs across airport sites.

  • Industry

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  • Organisation size

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    approx. 7,000

  • Location

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  • Service

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  • Length of project

    8 months

Managing high volumes of regulated data whilst streamlining operations

MAG operates in a constantly evolving environment, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The ecosystem is complex, with passengers, partners and colleagues interacting with the airport at the same time. On top of this, the Group is bound by Government and industry regulations, both nationally and internationally

Over the years, huge volumes of data have been generated and stored on an integration platform that has since become costly to manage, and had begun to challenge the Group’s ability to scale up its operations.  

MAG needed the flexibility to pursue commercial, operational and digital growth, all while reducing risk. They knew they could do this by improving ownership, resilience, security and flexibility in how their data is managed. 

In short, the Group set out their vision for a centralised, scalable and performant data system, to ensure there was a consistent experience no matter which of their airports you worked with, at, or travelled through. As such, the teams interacting with the platform would need to embrace new ways of working around automation and reuse if they were to get the most and best out of the transformation. The success of the strategy also relied on transparency in order  to comply with the regulations. 

An innovative data integration platform strategy 

One of the Group’s main aims was to create meaningful and long-lasting change throughout the organisation. The first step along this journey was to run a Discovery, to map out MAG’s operational and regulatory context. In doing so, the potential business value of a new data integration strategy was identified as a priority. The team decided that the best way to prove out the path to value was to build an exemplar – in this instance, to explore if an existing proof of concept (one of MAG’s Gate Change Notification journeys) could be scaled to become a fully production-ready solution, with all the necessary development and operational features included.

The team weighed up the merits of three different options:

  1. Build out the proof of concept: This option would incur significant running costs, and bring potential technical challenges, because the underlying data structures were outside of MAG’s control. 
  2. Request/Response: This option would be significantly less costly but might fail to be sufficient to meet emerging strategic opportunities.
  3. Hybrid: This approach would provide much of the strategic value of option one  but with reduced complexity and cost, thanks to the use of AWS native tooling for internal data.

The team decided to pursue option three, and the resulting integration was with Ryanair. The service now sends over 16,000 messages a day across the Group. This ensures that both passengers and ground crew get the right information at the right time, creating vital consistency in communications. MAG is now working to explore how this integration could be extended to other airline partners..

Rapid iteration, continuous delivery

These early conversations helped the team arrive at a valuable realisation: that the operational rigour in the environment could be reliably supported by a simplified and repeatable process, without compromising on quality. The team believed that dependable and transparent automation was the key to enabling MAG to safely and rapidly scale future data integrations.

As part of their work on the Ryanair exemplar, the team had created a matrix of non-functional requirements (NFRs) that could be used for all future data integrations. The matrix encompassed multiple parts of the business, including infrastructure, networks, service, design and transition. Now the Group could quickly and easily identify the categories of data that the individual teams could then use to inform their user stories when building out services. 

Building on this momentum, the team identified the next priority: a new testing environment, which would provide the Group with repeatable patterns, design phases, and development processes on which the future of the business could be built. It would also create paved roads and various automation benefits that would support the evolving technical vision.

An improved mindset and skillset

By embracing the concept of data domains, MAG has been able to standardise and rapidly scale their current integrations, whilst making the design and development of new integrations that much simpler. Thanks to the NFR matrix, teams can efficiently build a collective position on the complexities of any effort in a matter of minutes. They also no longer have to work to individual interpretations of a regulation. As MAG’s Chief Technology Officer, John Hudson, said: 

“The boilerplate and templating that Equal Experts helped to design and build has led to a significant  increase in efficiency across our operations. A recent flight info integration with a third party took half a day. In the past this kind of integration has taken almost a week.”


By working with MAG to improve their capabilities and ways of working, Equal Experts have helped the teams to become better able to create their own solutions going forward. The Group can now make better decisions, using repeatable patterns that can be used again and again in the future. 

The strategy moves MAG towards attaining greater operational resilience, whilst also increasing their delivery capability and operational responsiveness.

Collaborating with Equal Experts has propelled MAG toward their grand vision of creating the world leading intelligent airports. Through the establishment of a unified data insight solution, the Group has guaranteed the dissemination of live, real-time events across the entire operation. This synergy has enabled the organisation to confront disruptions head-on; when one segment encounters turbulence, the entirety is alerted, orchestrating a cohesive response. This level of coordination ensures the traveller’s journey remains seamless and unaffected, reinforcing MAG’s commitment to excellent innovation in every encounter.

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