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Airline BI Solutions - Flight Operations

Flight Operations is concerned with all aspects of getting passengers to their destinations safely, on-time, efficiently, and with their luggage. This is the measure of a customers good or bad flying experience.

Flight Operations system were traditionally used to support the planning and maintenance of airline operational schedules. Today, they are highly complex, sophisticated decision making systems facilitating effective recovery from operational disruptions.

Minimising deviation from the planned schedule relies on near real-time exchange of messages across various external systems and sub-systems. This is leading Airlines to upgrade flight operation systems that take advantage of new SOA architectures and real time data transport.

Many older airline flight operation systems suffer from:

  • Limitation in Efficiency and performance
  • Fail to extend to support changing/growing business needs
  • Poor user interface
  • Lack Scalability
  • Lack interoperability with other airline systems, due to rigid communication interchange protocols between applications
  • High technology overhead
  • Limited scope for interpretation of real time data exchanged within the system

Flight Operations modules and point solutions include:

  • Flight Scheduling
  • Route Optimisation
  • Load Optimisation
  • Channel Management


Demand-Driven Dispatch - Canadian Airlines

Prior to implementing an active data warehouse, flight schedules and plane assignments were seldom changed, regardless of changes in markets and passenger levels. Each flight’s profitability was unknown.

A Demand-driven Dispatch application used forecast information from the revenue management data mart [integrated with a enterprise data warehouse] and flight schedule data was used to identify opportunities for maximizing aircraft usage.

This enabled short-term adjustments without disrupting operations. For example, swapping one routing of an aircraft [without disrupting the crews or the maintenance operations] with a larger plane to a flight with unusually high demand. The application has also proven very useful when large events, such as the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras occur.

By being able to “cherry pick” schedule changes, revenue has increased, leading to an estimated $5 million dollars a year in incremental revenue.


Flight Management Dashboard

The Flight Management Dashboard helps operations staff quickly identify issues in the flight network and then manage flights to improve customer satisfaction and airline profitability. For example, the dashboard can:

  1. Track high value customers in the hub
  2. Track on-time arrivals
  3. Identify gates where there are potential gate connection problems
  4. Use the information to alert gate agents, baggage supervisors, and other operations managers to provide any necessary ground transportation assistance or other services to ensure customers and their luggage avoid missing flights.
  5. Drill down to see individual flight information.


Real-time Flight Statistics

Measures include:

  • On-time arrivals
  • On-time departures
  • Relative flight volumes
  • Number of late flights
  • Ratio of late flights to the total number of flights between the hubs
  • Lateness - with drill down for degrees of lateness
  • Baggage Handling

Users can also submit queries to further understand how airline operations is performing at any instant. 'What-if' scenarios can be run to determine the impact of cancellations, delays, or changes to specific flights.


Crew Operations and Union Negotiations

Crew Operations is concerned with issues related to pilots and flight attendants. This includes:

  • Crew pay
  • Crew scheduling
  • Crew performance
  • Crew efficiency
  • Crew contract negotiations

Crew costs are a major expense item that needs careful management and negotiations. For instance, Continental Airlines uses a Crew Operations BI system to help understand whether the airline was fair in its utilisation of reserve pilots. The pilots union claimed that the airline was relying too much on reserve pilots to avoid the expense of recalling pilots on leave.

By using data from the warehouse to understand:

  • How often reserve pilots were flying
  • How they were being assigned
  • When they were being assigned

... the airline proved that the 'union perceived problem' was occurring only on rare occasions due to unexpected spikes in bad weather and pilot sick days. This confirmed Continental’s staffing management was correct and that the problem only occured when drivers such as weather patterns fell far outside of the norm.

By sharing information with airline management, crew and the unions an agreement was reached that crew management was indeed both correct and fair.

Next: Crew Schedulling

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