Aircraft, fuel and crew are the 3 key cost drivers of thriving airline operations. Finding the foremost efficient route and staffing it with properly qualified personnel is a vital financial consideration. So, for the effective utilization of the entire fleet and crews, smart planning is a matter of key importance.
However, mistakes happen. one of the recent examples of crew planning issues can be a case of Ryanair, the low-cost carrier primarily based in Dublin. The airline reported that poor planning and a small amount of bad luck left the corporate with a shortage of working pilots. Consequently, the insufficiency has forced Ryanair to cancel two hundred flights starting on September 16th and continued through October. So, even the most insignificant mistake made while planning and scheduling crew resources. Will become serious issues bringing huge financial losses for airlines. Have you ever thought what reasons lie behind all the challenges in crew planning and scheduling?
Major reasons behind difficult planning method
One of the main factors making crew planning and scheduling such a difficult method is frequent changes in airlines’ market situations. Particularly this makes it difficult to maintain efficient operations which will result in underutilized fleet and crew, or perhaps worse, a shortage of resources.
The representative of Small Planet Airlines, a rapidly growing independent leisure airline company operating across several continents. Disclosed that they face the largest challenges when there’s an absence of crew. It becomes tough to plan all the flights within Flight Time Limitations (FTL) requirements, plan SBYS, develop the alleged ‘plan B’ just in case of illness, etc. Correspondingly, the departments handling crew planning usually have to create several changes in crew rosters.
Not surprisingly, the primary draft of plans for a given planning period will be updated many times till the final plans are fixed and published. In the operational phase, these plans may still be altered. For instance, flights can be canceled or delayed and crew might report sick. Therefore, airlines tackle these issues by having some buffer resources (for example stand-by crew).
“The main reasons behind corrections made while planning are: changes in the flight schedule (new flights, changed schedules), sick leaves, employee resignation”, comments J. Pugaciauskiene, Head of planning Division at small Planet Airlines. Because of massive numbers of crew employed by airlines, even small changes in productivity will have a significant impact on an airline’s profits. A single percent improvement can translate into many million euros.
How is the crew scheduling and planning process managed?
In order to manage the process smoothly and eliminate all the potential risks of failure. Airlines have a challenging task: to create a ‘realistic’ route program for each (IATA) season. To make optimum use of the available resources.
In general, the crew management process at airline companies can be considered as a separate type of art. It’s constantly influenced by a dozen of foreseeable and unpredictable events: a lack of crew members, ever-changing weather conditions, political unrest, etc. So, how is that this method administered at the airlines? Planning and scheduling process of crews is sometimes divided into several planning stages. For this reason flight, duty and rest time of crews at airlines are managed by different departments simultaneously working on their part of resource planning. These departments communicate in order to regulate their plans and to update one another with changes.
For example, small Planet Airlines manages its crews with the assistance of 2 departments. The responsibility for long-term planning (monthly rosters) is taken by a planning department. While Crew Dispatch is responsible of short-term changes (72 hours from the present moment).
Therefore, to attain efficient operations, airlines gather huge teams that are invisible to an ordinary traveler. Every single department, particularly these conducting tasks related to crew planning and scheduling, are extremly important. Dou you agree that good planning and scheduling are among the main aspects in making an airline’s operations flourishing.