Airline Operations

How "Dynamic Situational Awareness" is revolutionizing airline Operational Control Centres


Airline Operational Control Centres (OCC) are complex, dynamic, and stressful environments. OCC staff need to know the different operational scenarios they are dealing with at all times and remain on high alert. A holistic and real-time view of airline operations is critical for on-time performance, efficiency, productivity, cost-control, and safety. Having the right and most up-to-date information at the right time is crucial to making the best decisions.

Yet, it´s surprising how many critical OCC processes still rely on manual intervention from highly specialized controllers flicking through countless screens, databases, and Gantt Charts. For airlines operating large fleets on a daily basis staying on top of operational performance is painstaking, inefficient, and a Herculean task that´s prone to human error. Imagine how much smoother the process would be if you had a centralized and highly configurable view of an entire operating fleet with real-time updates, proactive alerts, and automated remedial actions shared across OCC stakeholders.

Key operational scenarios at play for dynamic situational awareness 

Automation is a key enabler for real-time and holistic operational performance monitoring, control, and response. Whether of minor or major consequence, irregular operations are often inevitable and occur regularly, but their early identification accelerate recovery, lower costs, and reduce their domino effect.

There are multiple scenarios where dynamic situational awareness offers immediate benefits:

  • "Out, Off, On, In" (OOOI) movement times are vital operational indicators that allow airlines to track and proactively address performance issues. Yet, there are daily situations where the data for some of these indicators may be missing. As operational conditions can change by the minute, automated shortlists with real-time updates make it easier and more efficient for controllers to track those flights that warrant closer attention.
  • "Aircraft on ground" is a term that sends OCC stakeholders into a recovery flurry. Though the reasons behind these scenarios are often unpredictable and unavoidable, being aware of the issue as soon as possible increases problem-resolution lead time. While a defective aircraft may be the cause, the ability to quickly locate an available replacement aircraft or spare parts is important to accelerate recovery from a disruption.
  • Collaboration is key to efficient airline operations. Sharing a real-time, easily trackable, and single source of truth among stakeholders is critical for holistic performance monitoring so resources can be allocated in the most appropriate way.
  • Legal compliance adds complexity and is a variable factor in airline operations. An aircraft´s ability to operate on certain routes or airports given technical configurations, crew maximum work shifts, or active airport operational restrictions are all factors controllers need to be aware of. Oversight of these parameters cause operational disruptions and lead to financial liability. Innovative tools allow controllers to be aware of all factors and receive early alerts of potential violations, which are otherwise easy to miss using traditional Gantt charts.
  • Even without a major disruption, delays to critical connections can still arise if a crew required to operate a flight arrive late or connecting passengers are delayed, for example. Knowing how many connections, passengers, and crew are affected, along with delay time, is vital to operational recovery. Obtaining this information from Gantt charts is challenging. An easily retrievable shortlist of impacted flights that´s automatically updated in real-time helps steer OCC decisions, such as whether to wait for a delayed crew or activate a standby crew.
  • Total and average delay statistics, and the reasons behind them, for current day, week, and month are key metrics to measure operational efficiency and cost control discussed during daily review calls. A single and shareable source of truth can really help track these metrics.
  • While real-time reporting along standard parameters is important to track operational performance, it´s equally important to have flexible dashboards that can be configured to track customized parameters. As operational conditions change, controllers benefit from additional data points that come with dynamic tracking capabilities, such as priority flights or cargo shipments on passengers fleet monitoring. Value-added data points change depending on the context, configurable dashboards with real-time and flexible parameter reporting give controllers that extra hand.

Digitally-empowered airline operations

Conditions change quickly and customer expectations are becoming increasingly demanding. The precision dynamic situational awareness offers operations controllers is no longer a luxury. It´s an absolute necessity. Scrolling up and down Gantt charts on a continuous basis is a legacy and human error prone process which belongs in the past.

Technology enables a far simpler and more efficient way of managing airline operations, even for the "non-tech savvy". And for those that are, highly configurable and automated tools provide real-time data that give controllers powerful advantages and insights to continuously improve operational processes. A common platform that shares real-time performance information to all operations stakeholders enables greater collaboration to ensure on-time performance, efficiency, productivity, cost-control, and safety.

Author Info 

Vinoop MV is the Principal Consultant for IBS Software´s Airline Operations line of business in India. He comes with 16+ years of experience in consulting, product management, and customer engagement in airline operations. Vinoop holds a Masters degree in Business from IIM Kozhikode and a Masters degree in Computers from Bharathidasan University.

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