Paradigm Shift In Managing Airline Crew for Game-Changing Results
Traditionally, airline crew management was viewed as a cost center within the operations department, and the goal was to maximize utilization while focusing on the plan. Today, however, crew management is more focused on actual results and creating a resilient and recoverable schedule. While still a cost-conscious pursuit, this new thinking and advanced technology improves operational performance and crew satisfaction, which ultimately translates into more satisfied passengers.
Airlines have traditionally focused on revenue. Therefore, it’s only natural that they have looked to further enhance revenue by saving operations costs, including crew functions. A key piece of airline operations is crew management. However, the traditional view of crew management hasn’t necessarily taken into account the dynamic nature of people — both crew and passengers.
Today, due to evolving technologies, there is an opportunity to enhance decision making within the operations departments. Technology enables airline’s to better plan and execute. Most importantly, they are better organized for recovering from any kind of operational disruption. This is essential to any business that operates based upon a published schedule but is not able to control the environment in which it operates.
A Complete View
The crew-management process is inherently complex, but an ideal crew-management solution can create internal strengths to meet external challenges and the complexity of the crew ecosystem, as well as achieve advantages that will support key business objectives. The ideal solution considers multiple factors and ensures a complete view.
In other words, there are factors in airline operations that are simply uncontrollable, and one of the most prominent factors is weather. So the daily routine of an airline almost always has to include the “X factor” of uncertainty as to whether some aspect of weather may interfere.
Or perhaps equipment will require unscheduled repair procedures, or crewmembers will be unable to work due to illness or work rules. Crew legality is, of course, a huge issue airlines must successfully manage to have any chance of establishing and strengthening revenue flows.
But now, with technology advancing, airlines can more effectively deal with these various uncontrollable factors. Solutions are being developed to work in real time, adding a dimension of timeliness to a previously intractable problem. These solutions prove to be a game changer for airlines in advancing their business plans to new levels of successful performance.
In recent years, there has been a realization among airlines that it is no longer good enough to allow operations to barely get by on a minimal budget. However, investment in improved operations can pay off extremely well in bettering overall airline performance.
Airline management has been paying a lot of attention to the concept of revenue integrity, which means developing and improving revenue streams throughout a carrier’s infrastructure.
Now, the concept of operations integrity is becoming the more prominent concept.
An airline that wants to improve its operations integrity should start with a very simple question: Are we really executing to the plan?
Carriers perform planning functions upfront, planning flight schedules a month, several months or even a year in advance. But more attention needs to be paid to how the airline actually executes on its meticulous advanced planning.
What is being planned? And are airlines really using the tools that can enable them to manage day-to-day assumptions and day-to-day operations based on those assumptions — smoothly, efficiently and productively?
An Open-Source Approach
A new open-design, services-based technology approach creates a platform without the traditional silos and removes the obstacles to finding holistic solutions. This enables airlines to reduce complexity and increase data visibility with a comprehensive view of key integrated services and technologies while being able to adapt to new business, regulatory and legality requirements faster with flexible data-management-driven rules.
The underlying idea is that airlines need to better understand how their plans are delivering, and how to use that information to improve performance.
A primary reason this analysis hasn’t come to fruition in the past is simply the sheer complexity of trying to coordinate day-to-day operations with all the glitches and delays that occur so often, and with more severe major airport outages that occur. For example, in the event of a substantial winter storm, or even a large series of thunderstorms, heavy fog and other disruptive weather can shred an operations schedule.
Then, of course, an airline’s rate of recovery from cancellations and extended delays can spell the difference between relative success and relative failure at the bottom line.
Delays And The Domino Effect
As in all of life’s intricacies, an airline’s performance cannot be properly judged by the way it operates when skies are blue and everything is going smoothly. Its performance is more properly judged by how it handles adversity.
All businesses face adversity. All businesses occasionally fail to deliver their best. So how, under these circumstances, are they judged?
Airlines are judged based on how quickly and how well they get back on schedule. They are judged by their alacrity in responding to their customers’ urgent requests for answers and assistance, and in delivering on their brand promise by genuinely making things right with customers after operations have gone wrong.
Their response is the essence of operations integrity: carefully analyzing and improving procedures based on past performance, and quantifiably improving and raising the bar of expected and required enhancements in future performance.
When a disruption occurs at one of the large international airports, successful recovery is not simply about any particular airline’s actions in delaying, canceling or rescheduling flights. It’s more about how the airline fulfills its brand promise to its passengers, getting them where they want to go safely and efficiently under the circumstances.
The airline has to find an aircraft that can be operated on the route that is to be flown. But the most complex element of the equation is finding and assembling all necessary members of the crew to fly that aircraft.
Comprehensive Crew Management
Next-generation crew-management technology provides comprehensive crew planning and management that support business and operational objectives throughout the crew-management lifecycle. It takes into account regulation and compliance requirements, employee preferences and fairness, accommodations and travel, and fatigue management throughout the process, as well as offers capabilities in the areas of crew planning, crew rostering, crew tracking, employee self-service, administration and recovery.
If the crew, for example, is in one location and the aircraft is in another location, obviously the crew needs to be assembled at the flight-origin location from which it needs to fly the plane to the specified destination.
Having the crew in the “right place” to operate the “right flight” takes a multitude of events to happen as per plan to enable on-time departure.
New Concept In Crew Management
The industry needs a next-generation crew-management system featuring configurability, scalability and rules management so airlines can work in real time. .
Under this concept of crew management, real-time information is available so crewmembers can access schedules with up-to-the-minute updates, enabling them to have real-time insights they’ve never had before. An airline’s ability to share key insights between planning, tracking and recovery functions using configurable rules and real-time deployment will create a paradigm shift in crew management.
The capability to access information makes for a better informed, more confident crew, working with greater understanding and insights through which crewmembers can better please and cater to customers.
Meanwhile, passengers will benefit from the synergies of a better connected airline, operating more efficiently and recovering much more quickly when inevitable, unforeseen events occur.
Airlines will also save money through greatly improved capability to work logically with scale, thereby not requiring carriers to simply spend an inordinate amount of money to make absolutely certain that a given problem is covered.
Real-time scalability and information access will enable airlines to make better decisions quicker than ever before, and to handle disruptions with a greater sense of confidence that the issues are being addressed correctly, and as quickly as possible.
The Connected Airline
“The connected airline” simply means having the right data at the right time to make the right decision. What a carrier will now find is the connected airline will generate capabilities never before deemed possible in the industry.
Insights into the bigger picture of airline operations will be stunningly improved, making it possible for airlines to grow to their fullest desire and master plan, and to better serve a much broader subset of the traveling public, with crew management dynamically improved and enhanced through real-time analysis and capabilities.
The connected airline encompasses the elements of four key components of a carrier’s fundamental routine: flight operations, flight management, airport operations and crew management. Since managing constant change is essential to effective and efficient operations control, the connected airline is a critical construct for operational excellence and competitive performance among the best in the business.
In summary, the connected airline delivers operations integrity. A greatly enhanced crew-management ecosystem is the key to executing the best operational plan at all times. It will redefine how airlines manage operations.