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Operational Planning – Getting the Balance Right

At most airlines, the operational planning window has been shortened from annual or seasonal to just months and weeks, as airlines react to the current surge in demand. In an effort to maximise revenues by chasing the huge levels of pent-up demand for travel, market-planning functions in commercial passenger airlines are placing additional stress on operations that are already under heavy pressure. There is a tough balance to be struck between maximising revenue opportunities, whilst still being able to manage a sustainable operation of crew and resources.

Operational Planning to Face Current Demand

There is plenty of evidence to show that airline operations are struggling to meet the current demand. Crew Planners and Schedulers are under increased pressure to react to changes driven by the revenue side of the business. If this pressure is not well managed and properly calibrated with the operational capacity of the airline, the revenue-chasing efforts quickly become counter-productive. To get the operational balance right, airlines need to be able to track flight crew utilization, productivity and costs in real-time. With the crew planning and scheduling window being shortened, it is more important than ever that the crew management function can answer the following kinds of questions:

  • Have we scheduled the appropriate crew complement for the operation, in terms of Captains, First Officers and Cabin Crew?
  • Is our crew recruitment and training plan operating successfully? What is the rate of attrition?
  • As we change the flying programme, do we still have enough flight crew in the right locations to execute this plan?
  • Where are our Standby or Reserve crew located and are we using them effectively?
  • What events are disrupting the planned schedules? How many are crew related, in terms of sickness and fatigue?

Airlines that cannot answer these questions on a day to day basis will struggle to get the operational balance right between maximising revenues and managing a sustainable operation. Up to date analysis of how the operation is performing is essential for understanding if the operation is coping, or if a tipping point has been reached where chasing further revenue is counterproductive.

Rainmaker’s Operations Analytics Software streamlines the process of gathering day to day operational data such as delays and cancellations across the airline. This is then supported by Rainmaker’s Crew Analytics, Hotel & Transport, and Fuel Analytics applications, giving airlines a complete view of their operations, available in real-time, for managers at their desktops or on-the-go. By utilising this data, airlines can maximise their push to chase revenues whilst also being able to maintain a sustainable operation with manageable levels of flight crew.

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