There are three universal truths in commercial aviation:
1. Delays cost money and goodwill; we can afford neither
2. Information is wealth – distribute it honestly and sincerely
3. United we stand, divided we fall (no pun intended)
Contrary to popular belief, airline companies, passengers and travel partners have one thing in common: None of them want a flight to be delayed. That's right, no airline in the world is happy to delay a flight; not only does it cost them a lot of money as penalties and additional charges, but it also makes their customers hate them and trust them less – and that's only what's immediately obvious.
Behind the scenes, upset schedules have a domino effect, causing an estimated $60 billion worth of leakage from airline coffers globally. The latest edition of the Air Travel Consumer report, released by the United States Government Department of Transportation in December 2017 gives us a good sample to estimate how airlines perform in this regard. In the below chart, it is evident that a majority of what actually caused delays that month can possibly be attributed to the airlines.
Larger airlines have two clear advantages. One, their budgets can take the odd hit once in a while and survive without much issue. Two, they have sufficient additional infrastructure and resources to switch around in case of a disruption and prevent delays from actually happening. Low cost carriers are the worst hit; their shoestring budgets do little to cushion the blow from the costs associated with delays. Hence, operational efficiency is the only way for these airlines.
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Achieving this operational efficiency is a complex task, and not one that can be achieved at the push of a button. Yes, most technologists can create and implement algorithms to face the mundane challenges and give out a stock response, but that doesn't always guarantee efficiency because practically the challenges aren't always in black and white. Experienced operations controllers are necessary to analyse the grey areas, codify them and match them with tangible responses and then ensure that the right response is chosen. Technology cannot replace them, but can further empower them and enable them.
An effective technology platform has multiple roles to play in this scenario, as depicted. At the crux of the system is transparent and full passage of information, which is key to enabling the human experts to choose the right response. This stems from a reliable and comprehensive data set, which may not be within the scope of a single airline acting on its own. This is where partnerships become essential - think Collaborative Disruption Management. The synergy that arises from the united effort is harnessed using the technology platform. While maintaining the secrecy and confidentiality which are essential for competition, airline companies can offer (and avail of) mutual assistance in terms of data availability and integrity for effective decision making. In short, each airline can unlock and build their expertise from the wealth of experience shared by the entire spectrum of airline companies.
"On time" is the most effective mantra for running an airline. But achieving that seemingly simple objective comes from a broad based effort involving heavy coordination of human intellect and technological capital.
Daniel Stecher is Vice President of Airline Operations at IBS, 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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