How the pandemic transformed the airline operations and crew scheduling workplace

Airline Operation Control Center
If, during the pre-Covid times, passengers were taken on a guided tour of an airline's Operations Control Center (OCC), they would have seen rows and rows of computers and operations specialists, handling huge data banks. The OCCs ensure seamless communication and collaborative decision making between multiple stakeholders for an airline's entire flight operations covering flight tracking and crew scheduling, maintenance planning and dispatch. The OCCs provide centralized real-time operational control, helping the airlines overcome data integration challenges and avoid the bottlenecks in the existing IT systems.

Whenever airline CXOs were faced with queries on the future work model of the OCCs, especially around the experts working from home, it was always a big NO. They were not convinced about the safe, secure and smooth functioning of the OCC, if people worked remotely. 

And then came COVID-19, the biggest disruptor ever. And it mandated that people maintain social distance at workplace, across all spheres and the world turned to new models of working and OCCs were no exception. The Control Centers were also at risk from the virus that could impact airline operations, due to the virus causing gaps in OCC shifts. And some of the airlines grouped their OCC teams ensuring that the airline operations would go uninterrupted, even if one or a few members of a group caught the virus.

A few other airlines let their flight and crew planners work from home, keeping only the day-of-ops personnel in the OCC.

Then came the countrywide lock-downs and stricter quarantine rules which prompted all carriers to rethink the requirement of asking their day-of-ops experts to get to the airline OCC. But this involved huge revamp of the way the systems worked – the right kind of infrastructure had to be set up at the residences of all OCC personnel. And moreover, data security had to be guaranteed.

The world has been dealing with the pandemic for over a year and organizations have resorted to new models of functioning to make sure that businesses run as normally as can be. The way the world functions has changed, completely. Of course there are people who feel that things will go back to where it was, once the current mayhem settles and airline employees, irrespective of their roles would soon return to office premises. But there is another school of thought that suggests that there would soon be hybrid working models where the OCC staff would alternate between working from home and being present at the OCC.

Get insights from Emirates Network Control Center in Dubai, UAE (Copy Rights: Khaleej Times)

Airlines enabling WFH for employees, like any other organization following the same norm would benefit hugely by:

  • Reducing the health risk of working in a large airline office
  • Improved work-life-balance for employees
  • Huge savings on time lost in commuting, thus making the experts more flexible to shift duties
  • Significant reduction in facilities upkeep and maintenance costs
  • Considerable reduction in CO2 emissions and the carbon footprint per person, comparing against the scenario of daily commute to office by various transportation means.
  • It reduces the Airlines' energy requirement for the technology in use, because the airline experts are working with less monitors and desktop computers than in the OCC.

Despite all the hardships it has brought, the pandemic has a silver lining. Airlines have started to become more sustainable on the ground by implementing modern, integrated digital cloud-based platforms that reduce the traffic, improve work-life balance of the airline users by enabling them to work from home.


About the Author

Daniel Stecher is VP of Airline Operations at IBS Software, and has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation and logistics industries. Prior to joining the IBS family, he was product manager and consultant for the schedule management, operations control and crew management product at Lufthansa Systems. Daniel is perpetually on the move, having raked up literally over a million miles of business travel in his career. He enjoys delicious home cooked food, reading books and the odd round of golf in his spare time.

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Monday, 27 September 2021

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