Aviation Wrap-Up March 2020

Mobile Technology – A Valuable OTP Tool

A recent Boston Consulting Group study found that reducing ground time by just one minute per aircraft can potentially yield annual savings of up to $10 million. In addition to the savings, the ability to better adhere to flight schedules and avoid costly cancellations is further enhanced in a positive effect on an airline’s reputation with its customers. One way airlines can reduce their ground time is by arming their staff with mobile technology. From gate and ramp agents to aircraft mechanics, having access to key information at one’s fingertips can be pivotal in an airline’s on time performance (OTP).

Think about how gate agents perform their job. Each time they move to a new gate, they must log in to the airport’s computer terminal which, too often, is too slow. It is not unusual for the system to require five to seven minutes to boot up, which of course impacts flight schedules. Consider this scenario. A flight delay was announced just as a gate agent begins his shift. To his misfortune, the agent must ward off a line of disgruntled passengers who are waiting some seven minutes to get gate information or assistance with their tickets. Unfortunately, this isn’t the exception, but a routine occurrence. If armed with a tablet that was equipped with biometric sensors, the gate agent could log in upon entering the airport terminal and remain logged in as he moved through the terminal from gate to gate. The advantage of this mobile technology is that now the gate agent is informed and better empowered to manage passenger inquiries. The technology can be further enhanced with platforms that link tablets to monitors and keyboards thereby also supporting more conventional desktop applications.

Ramp agents too can benefit from mobile technology and help improve OTP. This is despite the fact that many still use clipboards and walkie-talkies to communicate with other ramp agents and flight crews. They can be seen climbing airline steps, up and down, to convey a basic status update. If they had mobile devices with specific application software, instead of this arduous process, they would gain a clear view of an airplane’s load data without the need for load controllers to have to update data manually. Additionally, communications with flight crews could be achieved with a quick tap of a button. With the power of mobile technology to support them in their day-to-day tasks, ramp agents could focus their attention on managing unexpected contingencies instead of climbing stairs. Of course, by eliminating manual processes, data accuracy and documentation are also vastly improved.

As for aircraft mechanics, their use of mobile, as well as augmented reality (AR) technologies, can facilitate faster, better repairs, as well as promote more efficient training of new mechanics. Parts procurement also becomes streamlined as mechanical failures can be diagnosed and communicated automatically to the warehouse which, in turn, can apply AR to locate and confirm the appropriate part, and promptly deliver it to the runway.

In short, mobile technology is a dynamic tool with broad implications to OTP.

(Source: Samsung.com’s “Insights,” https://insights.samsung.com/2019/04/30/how-mobility-will-help-airlines-improve-on-time-performance-in-2019/)

RMIT University Study Demonstrates the Value of Airport Situational Awareness Maps in Predicting Flight Delays

Recently, researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, VIC, Australia conducted a research study to determine just how important airport situational awareness maps were to predicting flight delays. The research was funded by Northrop Grumman Corporation USA for the “Spatio-temporal Analytics for Situation Awareness in Airport Operations” project at RMIT University. In conducting their study, they leveraged the map’s airport traffic complexity factors and combined them with other factors such as weather conditions and flight information. They uncovered those factors which have the greatest impact on flight departures as revealed by the airport situational awareness map’s prediction results.

Through the use of graphs and charts, the researchers conveyed their tasks. In one figure, they revealed their prediction of departure delay at the predicting time (i.e., a set duration before the gate-out time they named the “delay-predicting gap”) using data collected during the observation period.  Being able to accurately predict departure delay can help airlines better manage their frequency, prevent passenger complaints and dissatisfaction, and gain greater insight into the broader problem at large. Typically, to better foresee potential delays stemming from weather conditions or a congested airspace, airlines have relied on a method whereby they increase the time between gate departures and gate arrival times. The downside of this is passengers incur longer waiting times. To date, previous studies have focused on the correlation between flight departure delays, weather and airport traffic. Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation cited inclement weather and traffic control as the primary contributors to flight departure delays. Little, if any, studies have applied aircraft trajectory data to predict departure delays.

A New Approach

The RMIT study took a unique approach encompassing:

  • A generic framework to predict the departure delay time using multiple data sources,
  • The proposed used of new features from the airport situational awareness map,
  • The use of airport flight situational awareness maps to define “Air Traffic Complexity” (ATC), and
  • The conducting of extensive experience using a large real-world dataset inclusive of comparing different machine learning methods and data sources.

Their method included several steps. They ranged from collecting historical, weather, tarmac aircraft and vehicle GPS data from various data sources, to “cleaning” and pre-processing the data, applying component analysis to the weather data and extracting ATC features from the aircraft tarmac and vehicle GPS data. This was followed by a modeling stage wherein datasets were combined in order in order to “train a regressor model that can be used for predicting departure times.” The researchers explained their use of popular regressors – linear, SVR, ANN and regression trees. This is technical, but the experiment’s results reveal how different datasets (i.e., flight schedule table data, weather data and airport GPS trajectories data) can be combined and, when supported by machine learning, demonstrate how the airport situational awareness map can be used to better predict flight delays by better predicting the departure flight delay times.

To download and read the complete study, which was submitted on November 5, 2019 by authors Wei Shao, Arian Prabowo, Sichen Zhao, Siyu Tan, Piotr Konuiusz, Jeffrey Chan, Xinhong Hei, Bradley Feest and Flora D. Salim, visit: https://arxiv.org/abs/1911.01605 (Source: www.arxiv.org)

OTP Ranking for US-Based Carriers in 2019

In its 2020 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR), the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that marketing carriers in the United States for calendar year 2019 posted an on-time performance of 78.97%, down from 79.2% in 2018. In the same time period operating carriers posted an on-time performance of 79.21 in 2019, slightly down from 79.38 in 2018.

The best performing marketing top three carriers were:

  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
Marketing Airline On-Time Arrival Pct 2019 (Jan-Dec)
Carrier On-Time Arrival Pct.
1 Hawaiian* 87.72
2 Delta* 83.46
3 Alaska* 81.31
4 Southwest 80.24
5 Spirit 79.52
6 Allegiant 78.73
7 American* 77.43
8 United * 75.18
9 JetBlue 73.50
10 Frontier 73.14
All Airlines 78.97
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics
* Includes branded code-share partners

The best performing operating top three carriers were:

  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Endeavor Air
Reporting Operating Airline On-Time Arrival Pct 2019 (Jan-Dec)
Carrier On-Time Arrival Pct.
1 Hawaiian 88.34
2 Delta 85.18
3 Endeavor 80.93
4 Alaska 80.30
5 Southwest 80.24
6 Spirit 79.52
7 SkyWest 79.23
8 Allegiant 78.73
9 Republic 78.66
10 PSA 78.09
11 United 77.74
12 American 77.01
13 Mesa 76.31
14 Envoy 76.09
15 JetBlue 73.50
16 Frontier 73.14
17 ExpressJet 70.64
All Airlines 79.21
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

China Suspends On-Time Performance Evaluations in a Bid to Support the Aviation Industry Trying to Recover from the Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak presents the greatest challenge to the aviation industry since the 9/11 attacks. China was particularly hard hit due to its early exposure to the coronavirus. Until January 2020, flights originating from China or going to China amounted for 5.2% of total global seat capacity. By the second week of February, this number had dropped to 1.8%. As of the first week of March, 2020, China’s domestic network traffic appears to be rebounding, adding back three million seats according to global travel data provider OAG. To further support the Chinese aviation sector, the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a notice, Civil Aviation Letter (2020) No. 145, through which it cut various airport and air control fees by 10%. The fee reduction policy was implemented as of January 23, 2020. In addition, it suspended on-time performance evaluations and shortened the approval time for reinstating international routes.

(Source: Civil Aviation Administration of China, Notice of the Civil Aviation Administration of China on supporting policies to actively respond to the new crown pneumonia epidemic, Civil Aviation Letter [2020] No. 145)  http://www.caac.gov.cn/en/SY/

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