Airline Operations

How Copa Airlines uses crew pairing as an operational and strategic planning tool

How Copa Airlines uses crew pairing as an operational and strategic planning tool

Since we began operating in 1947, Panama has grown to become the "Hub of the Americas." Pre-pandemic, Copa Airlines flew to 75 destinations across 31 countries, positioning itself as a strategic connector between North, Central, and South America. With on-time performance consistently above 90%, we rank amongst the best in the world and are honored to have been recognized by Cirium as the most on-time airline in Latin America for seven years in a row.

On-time performance is a critical indicator and cost factor in airline operations. It also has a direct impact on the passenger experience. Many variables weigh-in for on-time performance, and crew pairing is one of them at the initial planning phase. As an airline builds its schedules, it needs to ensure it has the right number of crew to operate its flights with sufficient buffer to recover from a delay or a crew member falling sick, for example.

With almost 350 flights on any given day during pre-pandemic conditions, the ability to fly productive, efficient, legally compliant, and viable schedules is challenging yet critical to operating your flights.

As you plan your staffing needs, juggling optimal crew productivity with a safety hedge in case you need to reassign crew is the pairing sweet spot. This leads to a more controlled cost base and efficient operational performance while also increasing crew satisfaction. Moreover, crew pairing must also be compliant with airline and industry body regulations that govern working hours, maximum flight frequencies, staff layovers, time off, etc. As you look to control costs, staffing efficiency is critical to make sure you have the right number of people in the right places to operate your schedules profitably. Crew pairing helps you budget to different time frames, whether monthly, annually or by season.

Beyond operational applications, we also use crew pairing as a strategic planning tool. AD OPT's crew pairing solution helps us optimize our crew needs as we continuously refine and adapt our commercial strategy to changing market conditions. The solution helps us plan and test different scenarios, allowing us to accurately forecast the staffing needs and cost implications of opening new routes, increasing our frequency, or entering new markets, for example. Through these analyses, we can determine whether our ideas are financially and operationally viable so we can devise an optimized and cost-conscious strategy.

Since 2012, AD OPT´s crew pairing solution has helped us plan and deploy successful airline operations. During this time, we have forged a strong partnership built on mutual trust that goes beyond the solution's parameters. We value the personalized attention, commitment, and value-added advice they provide the team at Copa Airlines to optimize our crew planning activities.

*Note: AD OPT is an IBS Software company.

Author Info 

Héctor Berrocal has 18 years' experience at Copa Airlines working across different roles in Airline Operations, Corporate Finance, Planning & Reporting, and Real Estate. Since January 2020, he's led the Crew Scheduling & Planning Department during what has been the airline industry's most dramatic era, and navigated Copa Airlines' crew operations throughout the pre-pandemic, shut-down, and re-start phases. Now focusing on reigniting the airline's growth, Hector oversees manpower planning to produce cost-efficient and optimized itineraries. Hector holds an MBA from the University of Louisville and graduated top of his class with the highest honors as a Commercial Engineer from the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología in Panama.

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