Next-Generation Crew Recovery Delivers Improved Features, Efficiency And Usability
The capability of airlines to quickly and efficiently recover crew from disruptions and get their rosters back on schedule is one of the most critical factors necessary to succeed in the air transport marketplace. A next-generation crew-recovery solution, incorporating the best and latest advancements in technology, provides faster and better disruption management to airlines.
During disruptions, airlines are faced with the problem of recovering crew schedules and providing an adequate number of crewmembers for each flight. Airline crew coordinators have a primary critical objective to reassign crews while minimizing cancellations and additional crew costs.
An optimization-based decision-support system can greatly assist airline coordinators in producing better recovery solutions with substantial savings and improved passenger experience.
Sabre AirCentre Recovery Manager (Crew) has been designed and implemented to help airlines solve complex crew-recovery problems.
Through the combination of experience and the latest operations-research advancements, the next-generation product is based on a holistic optimization approach to generate deployable crew rosters, significantly improving an airline’s response time to disruptions, as well as reducing operational costs.
Success During Severe Storms
In 2015 and 2016, record snowfalls hammered the northeastern region of the United States, resulting in large cancellation packages for airlines operating in the area. An especially severe blizzard, which was given the name “winter storm Juno” by meteorologists, hit North America in January 2015. The storm produced record levels of snowfall, causing one of the largest totals of flight cancellations in history.
January 2015 also happened to be the effective date for FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) Part 117 in the United States, which effectively imposed stricter crew flight and duty limitations, as well as higher crew rest requirements. Such rule changes considerably increase the complexity of rescheduling crewmembers during disruptions.
Dealing with this complex task, Recovery Manager (Crew) was successful in helping airlines recover 99 percent of disrupted crew schedules for all of the storms within the same day.
The end-to-end process using the solution was 10 times faster than the typical airline process, and it provided reduced disruption impact to passengers by providing crew to every flight possible. Quality of life for crewmembers was also improved due to faster communication and a lower number of unplanned flights.
Successful real-world utilization of Recovery Manager (Crew) during these storms produced further innovative ideas, which have been incorporated in the process of continual system enhancement, with the primary focus on improving solution quality, usability and speed.
DURING WEATHER DISRUPTIONS, AIRLINES FACE THE PROBLEM OF PROVIDING SAFE GROUND TRANSPORTATION FOR CREWMEMBERS IN THE AFFECTED GEOGRAPHICAL REGION.
During disruptions, it is important for airlines to relax company rules to be able to swiftly and successfully recover crew. It is legal and also operationally friendly for the original crew to operate the flight even if that action violates a “soft” company rule. Also, many regulations allow for relaxing non-critical rules for the crew originally operating the flight.
For example, duty time is restricted to 10 hours, but it is allowed for an “existing” duty up to 11 hours. Such flexibility is required during large disruptions, when reserve crewmembers are scarce and only the original crew is available to operate a flight.
Therefore, a new feature has been added to the solution that effectively allows this level of flexibility. In practicality, the feature has fundamentally improved the solution quality by reducing unnecessary changes and covering more flights.
Furthermore, one of the problems airlines face during severe storms is the necessity to provide safe ground transportation for crewmembers in the affected geographical region. To address that issue, a new feature has been added to the solution to locate and resolve impractical ground transportation scheduled in crew rosters, and instead to provide alternative options.
For example, the solution effectively removes the requirement of a crewmember to take a taxi ride during the severe weather (such as a severe snowstorm), and instead schedules it after the storm. This feature has injected improved quality of life and safety for crewmembers, and hence has reduced the amount of manual work needed to resolve issues relating to ground transportation.
THE TYPE AND MAGNITUDE OF A CREW-RECOVERY SCENARIO IS TYPICALLY REPRESENTED BY THE NUMBER OF FLIGHTS THAT ARE CANCELED AND DELAYED, AS WELL AS THE TOTAL INITIAL DISRUPTED CREW SCHEDULES.
In rare situations, it may not be possible for crewmembers to be “recovered” while at the same time adhering to Federal Aviation Regulations and other airline policies. However, such crew may be recovered manually by discounting some of these requirements. Thus, a new feature has been added to retain crewmembers’ original schedules in such situations, making it easier for airline crew coordinators to recover crew schedules after the solution is deployed.
During a disruption, airline analysts typically have limited time to conduct automated recovery. But in certain cases, a problem may be too complex to be solved within this timeframe. It is imperative that crews that need immediate attention are recovered earliest.
To help ensure achievement of this positive result, a new interactive feature has been added to allow users to monitor and control the solution process. A “preliminary” solution is available and ready to be deployed even before the entire optimization process is complete. Then, as optimization continues, the preliminary solution is incrementally enhanced and expanded.
When recovery must be implemented on an urgent basis, a user can choose to deploy the latest solution, which contains recovered rosters for disrupted crews that need immediate attention. This flexibility of implementing incremental solutions can greatly mitigate time pressure that is typical in real-world disruptions.
Furthermore, in addition to the usability features already detailed, many other robust filtering options and reports have been added to improve process flow and the overall user experience.
RUNTIME COMPARISON IS CONDUCTED ON DIFFERENTTYPES AND SIZES OF BENCHMARKING SCENARIOS FROM 2014 TO 2016. “FD” ACCUMULATES RUNS RELATED TO FLIGHT-DECK CREW (PILOTS) FROM ALL AIRCRAFT FLEET TYPES AND PILOT RANKS, AND “CC” REPRESENTS CABIN CREW (FLIGHT ATTENDANTS) RUNS FROM ALL FLEETS AND RANKS.
The end-to-end process of using Recovery Manager (Crew) includes scenario construction, data extraction, optimization, solution review and solution deployment to all software systems. In the midst of the chaos of a disruption, the time taken to perform these steps is of utmost importance.
Performance of data extraction has been improved by applying parallelism, which significantly speeds up the processes of obtaining and refreshing data. Another improvement is the reduction in optimization time, by applying innovative techniques from operations research and computer science, resulting in a 30 percent average runtime reduction, and up to a 40 percent average runtime reduction on large to mega scenarios.
The Next Severe Storm
Recovering from disruptions is one of the most critical functions an airline undertakes, and the carrier’s success or failure in attempting to recover quickly can spell success or failure in the marketplace.
Featuring recent improvements in solution quality, efficiency and usability, Recovery Manager (Crew) can help airlines greatly improve response time in recovering from disruptions, minimizing additional cancellations and thereby reducing operational costs.
With quicker runtimes achieved in addressing some of the largest disruptions, as well as added flexibility in controlling the solution process, users of Recovery Manager (Crew) are now much more effectively prepared and equipped to solve disruptions of any type and magnitude.