Managing airline operations is complex, but it doesn't have to be difficult
Even on the best of days, airline Operations Control Centers are high pressure environments. With so many variables to be monitored and controlled at any given moment, Operations Controllers are constantly on high alert. And when a disruption strikes, stress levels soar beyond cruising altitude.
In addition to managing day-to-day operations, strategic planning, and reporting - whether to weekly, monthly, or seasonal timeframes - are also mission-critical activities undertaken by the department. Ensuring cost efficiency, productivity, and on-time performance depends on optimized aircraft, route, schedule, and crew plans.
Against this backdrop, the tools and technology we use make all the difference to how difficult managing complexity and controlling costs becomes. The single biggest contributor to difficulty is the use of legacy, siloed, and disjointed systems and processes. With various solutions on the market for airline operations and crew management, following are some key decision-making considerations for selecting the right, mission-critical technology.
A digital architecture by design
With technology making giant strides over recent years, the operating environment has changed dramatically. Cloud-native digital architectures and APIs now offer more agility, scalability, and easier integration capabilities than legacy server-based, or even cloud-migrated, systems. SaaS delivered solutions and platforms built around micro-services and containerization are easier, more flexible, and quicker to deploy, maintain, and upgrade leading to a far lower total cost of ownership than their predecessors. The underlying platform´s design and architecture determine the features and capabilities the solutions that sit on top can deliver and how well they perform.
Full integration for dynamic and real-time situational awareness
Data-driven insights are critical to planning, managing, and optimizing end-to-end flight, crew, hub, and airport operations. Highly configurable and user-centric dashboards that feed-off a common platform enable operations controllers and stakeholders to obtain a real-time view of performance. Dynamic visibility drives closer collaboration across teams, whether for monitoring routine activities or channeling attention to focus areas, such as a disruption recovery scenario. Process automation combined with artificial intelligence lead to greater efficiency, continuous improvement, predictive insights, and faster proactive responses to dynamic operating conditions.
Scenario planning, optimization, and agile crew management
On-time performance, safety, cost-efficient operations, and crew productivity all start with sound planning. Centralized data structures accessible to different stakeholders through a common platform enable more granular business intelligence analytics and reporting that lead to continuous and cost-aware improvements to airline operations. Artificial Intelligence-driven solutions that fully integrate flight, aircraft, hub, and crew operations facilitate the testing of different scenarios and routes to make the best scheduling and rostering decisions. Smart optimizers support strategic planning and productivity by allocating resources effectively to ensure the right aircraft and crew pairings based on active and standby staff availability across bases with the appropriate training requirements. Self-servicing and bidding options empower crews and allow them to take part in the planning process, leading to higher satisfaction while airlines retain transparency and control over the operational and cost impacts of crew choices and preferences.
Active product development roadmaps
Today's technology is only as future proof as its ability to meet current and future needs. For that, you need ongoing R&D and innovation investments in dynamic product roadmaps and agile development teams. Conditions change quickly and technology advances fast so you need to make sure that your technology partner can support you along the journey.
Agile, collaborative, and intelligent airline operations
Fleet and crew operations are the heart of any airline. Beyond driving key performance indicators, airline operations have a direct impact on the customer experience and brand reputation. Technology has moved on from expensive legacy systems and processes that don't provide the agility and flexibility to respond to today's demanding customers and fast-moving conditions. A fully integrated platform that cuts across the entire operations spectrum provides unmatched advantages for airlines to meet business and traveler expectations.
Philip Hinton in SVP and Head of Aviation at IBS Software. His broad and contrasted experience spans airline and airport operations, crew management, cargo, loyalty management, and passenger services. Phil has worked closely with many of the world's leading airlines including Air France, Asiana, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.