Airline operations: How close are you to perfection? (part 2)

In my last post, I wrote about how much planning is involved to make sure an airline is ready to operate just one day of flights. All of that planning can easily be thrown into disarray by one of many disruptions that can occur on the day of operations. This is exactly what happened when bad weather in New York delayed the departure of a Paris-bound flight.

Airline operations: How close are you to perfection? (Part 2)

The delayed departure led to a crewing issue that required crew control to look for replacement crew for the A380 operated flight. As crew control were trying to find replacement crew, a maintenance issue was found and so the flight could no longer be operated by the A380 aircraft. Crew control and aircraft dispatch needed to work together to come up with a new plan to get the schedule back on track.

Have we missed something important?

While the operation is madly trying to get plans back in place for crew and aircraft – a complex puzzle in itself – the passengers remain stranded. Passengers who have long given up hope for a wonderful experience and now just want one thing – to know when they will get home. Unfortunately, because of the chaos, the airline hasn’t had time to consider all possible alternatives. They have missed some good connection options for their passengers, such as easy fixes for the poor passengers living just down the road from the airport they were diverted to.

The bottom line? A lot of work is involved in creating plans which are only perfect up to the day before they are implemented. But even more important than the perfect plan is the perfect day of operations response to changes – especially in an industry where so much can go wrong at the last minute. A perfect plan needs to go hand in hand with a perfect day-of-operations response – which is when passengers need it the most.

Read also: The 5 costliest planning gaps in airline services

So how can you keep a perfect plan from descending into planning hell?

Keep your plan perfect

As we saw in the example above, an efficient response to disruptions requires day-of-operations coordination between all aspects of the airline’s operation. This is important to ensure that:

1. Crew control, flight dispatch & passenger control have full visibility of the airline’s operations. 

Imagine if every controller was kept up to date on any disruptions or planning issues. In the example of the delayed transatlantic flight, crew control would immediately have known about the maintenance issue on the A380 aircraft. This could have prevented some unnecessary reworking of the A380 crew rosters.

2. Crew control, flight dispatch & passenger control can synchronize efforts to plan the most efficient recovery of crew, planes and passenger itineraries.

How did the airline decide on the most efficient plan when the A380 aircraft could not continue to Paris? Imagine controllers from multiple areas planning a coordinated response in the same system. Instead of reacting to each other’s decisions, they plan these decisions together. This time when dispatch thinks it’s best to use a different aircraft type they will see the impact on crew and passengers and work with crew and passenger control on a coordinated plan.

That all sounds great in theory, but is it really practical?

Can the diverse areas of crew control, flight dispatch & passenger control all be accommodated within the same system? After all, each of these areas have their own particular rules and objectives to follow. And if they are included in the same system, doesn’t this make recovery even more complex?

Yes, it’s possible.

With a single day-of-operations system that is flexible enough to provide a 100% fit to the unique requirements of crew, aircraft and passengers. After all, a coordinated response is only valid if it meets the business rules of all of these three areas. Then there is the combinatorial explosion in the number of potential recovery solutions. To manage that you need a system with a powerful optimization engine that can develop alternative solutions that are operationally feasible, quicker than your controllers can. This allows your controllers to focus on selecting and implementing the best solution for the whole operation.

[Tweet “The faster airlines react, the less passengers will be inconvenienced”]

Achieving perfect day-of-operations execution represents quite a challenge. In an industry where disruptions are commonplace, the faster airlines react, the less passengers will be inconvenienced. In order to react quickly, airlines need to make sure that every aspect of the operation is kept up to date with accurate information from the day’s events. In order to react effectively, they need to quickly develop recovery plans that consider the impact on crew, aircraft and most importantly, on passengers.

Want to learn more about achieving the perfect day-of-operations? Talk to me on LinkedIn.