Managing airport disruptions: No more foggy trips please!

Dear Airport Operations Director,

Suspension Bridge in FogI missed a connecting flight the other day. The airline blamed the delay on fog. I wasn’t so sure.

By the time the delay was announced, the fog had long since cleared. What remained was another kind of fog: the fog planners face when trying to reschedule personnel and equipment at short notice.

In December 2010, the CEO of British Airways talked about the effects of heavy snowfall on his rosters. He referred to those rosters as ‘a giant global jigsaw puzzle’ that had been ‘torn up’ by the disruption.

‘A giant global jigsaw puzzle’ certainly captures the complexity planners face when managing airport disruptions. What are the consequences of redeploying this person? Does he or she have the right qualifications for the task? How will subsequent schedules be affected if I allocate this piece of equipment rather than that one? How are my decisions going to affect passenger satisfaction, punctuality, service level agreements, safety and overall operational costs?

Planners fumble their way through questions like these, struggling to come up with a feasible schedule. There is simply no time to look for better ways of using limited capacity.

After the catastrophic disruptions of 2010, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) produced a report entitled ‘Aviation’s response to a major disruption.’ In it the CAA noted that ‘Many of the issues that arose as a result of the recent disruption… were not specific to the event, but rather were the result of the knock-on effects of disruption to airport and airline operations more generally.’ Right at the top of the list of areas requiring improvement was ‘maintaining operations’.

I’d second that. As I watched the hours go by in that airport lounge, I was reminded of a line from that Neil Young classic ‘Like a hurricane’: … when time just slips away between us on our foggy trip.

Time doesn’t have to slip away just because there’s been a disruption. In an uncertain world, disruptions are inevitable. Significantly disrupted services aren’t.


What if your planners could see the consequences of their decisions, and correct course even before implementing those decisions?

What if they had instant feedback about whether their plans were feasible and complied with all the relevant rules?

What if they had immediate insight into the impact of various rescheduling options and scenarios on your KPIs?

And finally, what if a foggy trip didn’t have to turn into a hurricane of delays and cancellations?


Marcel Dreef

P.S. Discover more about managing airport disruptions and optimizing operations at your airport. Download your free copy of airport resource planning.