Contact Us
Contact Us
flight disruption management

Air operations, Expert view, Industry outlook

More flight disruption? Or shall we automate airline operations?

October 6, 2023

Cirium explores two key solutions for airlines and airports to advance their operations and better manage disruption.

This article was originally published in European Regions Airline Association’s new issue of Regional International magazine, here.

Flight disruption is nothing new, it’s always been there. So why do we continue to repeat the same behavior expecting a different outcome?

In this article, Rachel Humphries, Director of Product Marketing at Cirium explores two key solutions for airlines and airports to advance their operations and better manage disruption. And that is, with consolidated historical and forward-looking analytics and real-time aircraft positional intelligence.

A day in the life of an airline Operational Control Centre (OCC) would shine a light on the multitude of operational spokes that come together and how as an industry we can do a much better job.

Innovative airlines are increasingly investing in automating the processes and workflows, but as most of us in the industry know, this is easier said than done in such an established web of processes.

Where do airlines focus first? What advancements will make the most impact now? How do airlines save time and costs and improve their passenger experience at the same time?

Especially in times of disruption.

Flight delays globally cost airlines an estimated $30 billion annually and these delays ricochet and impact the passenger, airport, airport services, surrounding transportation networks and can have a broader economic impact.

In many Annual Reports for 2022, major European airlines reported various disruption events, not least the impact felt from the pandemic, but a number of adverse weather and system issues, alongside resourcing and capacity restrictions which significantly impacted their operations and annual results.

The European carriers rallied and mitigated the impact by retiming flights, consolidating routes reallocating aircraft to serve varying capacities and increasing collaboration with partner airlines. Although admirable, it feels that the industry can be more proactive and advance real time decision making, which would take the management of disruption to a new level.

Airlines can start with creating a consolidated data-rich system to accelerate various operational initiatives

Evaluating base performance—turnaround times, block time and On-Time Performance—compared to competing airlines can drive strategic decisions around the number of turnarounds and flights per rotation, regularity, diversions and more, and as a result lead to improved operations, saved time and cost.  

In a 2019, Cirium analysed a European low-cost-carrier (LCC) which showed each minute of block time delay cost the airline $74.24 USD. If we apply a conservative $60/€54 for the same period, it represents a $22 million/€20 million challenge to the airline’s bottom line.

Analysing seasonal trends for one’s own fleet versus competing airlines can bolster operational strategies. For example, is a competing carrier operating from the same airport but at a different frequency and capacity, and is this an opportunity? Further analysis of the utilisation compared to competing airlines can help identify areas to improve operations, such as by looking at distribution of scheduled night stop duration by airport or distribution of scheduled turnaround time for the entire past year versus a competitor.

Forward-thinking LCC, Vueling, leveraged the Cirium Sky Warehouse which enables an airline to bring together historical and forward-looking aviation analytics like the above into a unified platform, optimising their data science activities, and driving automated insights across their operations. The carrier accessed Cirium’s leading schedules, flight status and fleet data in one integrated platform and moved away from multiple providers.  

At the time of implementation, Oliver Iffert, Vueling chief operating officer said: “Using Cirium Sky, Vueling can plan flights more effectively and analyse flight delays based on accurate data. We will, as a result, drive a reduction in delays and minimise disruptions”.

One year on and Vueling has seen significant improvement in operations, leading to a reduction in passenger disruption and costs and has moved into its second phase to drive operational efficiency.

Example analysis January to August 2023. Showing Ryanair, Vueling and easyJet block time reliability and on-time departure percentages out of Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI).

Image: Comparison of Ryanair, Vueling, and easyJet flights departing Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI). Showing the on-time departure percentage within 30, 60 and 120 minutes. Vueling takes top spot in on-time departures.

Feeding real-time aircraft positional analytics into business systems can enable greater understanding of the current and changing state of a situation or aircraft

The need for dynamic situational awareness of aircraft and flights, that is, the real-time and holistic operational performance monitoring, control, and response to flight events such as irregular operations (IROPS) has long been needed.

Early identification of disruption and IROPS can accelerate the response and recovery, leading to lower costs and mitigation of the wider network impact.

This could include quick flight delay diagnosis, enhanced estimated time of arrival (ETA) and connection efficiency, advanced intelligence on taxi times and runway configurations, earlier identification of holding pattern likelihood, and earlier flight delay predictions.

The key is for airlines and airports to work from the same data and analytics to improve efficiency, reduce delays and mitigate the impact, and receiving the data in real-time is paramount for on-the-day operations.

Kevin O'Toole

Kevin O’Toole, Cirium Chief of Strategy said: “The direct cost of disruption to the world airline industry is typically in the range of 3-5% of revenues. But that cost can be addressed. The emergence of satellite tracking not only gives precise, real-time visibility of all flights anywhere across the globe, but is also a valuable input to post-flight analytics to help airlines build a better plan.”

The benefit of the new Cirium Sky Stream, integrated flight feed is it offers real time gapless coverage of flights and aircraft worldwide, over oceans, mountains, or low altitude locations via a push-based API. Taking the precision of aircraft positional data to a new standard.

For airlines and airports looking for a dial shift in their operations, this would be it. It not only accelerates decision-making but ensure that data rich insights feed those decisions. The quality comes from the proprietary mix of Aireon’s satellite-based flight tracking data of all modern aircraft equipped with ADS-B and Cirium’s advanced flight status, schedules, and fleet data.

Receiving the analytics as a feed means businesses can integrate it with their systems and visualise the insights using intelligence tools.

The airline and airport operations market is enjoying an entrepreneurial renaissance and capabilities continue to improve. Yet, we aren’t quite seeing the full adoption of data and analytics.

If data flows fluently through airline and airport operational systems, we could see faster deployment of recovery plans, improved ability to model the consequences of events, prediction of issues emerging, and stronger reporting of disruption events.

Data and analytics-driven improvements in operational strategy and situational awareness will lead to significant savings in time and cost, and an improved passenger experience.

Learn more about Cirium Sky Warehouse and Cirium Sky Stream

RELX logo