The current days are the most challenging ones for aviation. The coronavirus crisis includes by far not only health aspects, but also profound changes, especially in transportation related areas. Even if the number of illness cases will decrease in the next weeks – which is the most important thing – the consequences for aviation will stay over a longer period of time. The most important question is not only: When will aircrafts lift off again? But also: How will operations start again? It is clear that aviation will not start up as a whole and all-of-a-sudden, but in a step-by-step process. On the one hand, this is a matter of logistics chains and interdependent processes. On the other hand, a lot depends on when and in which countries governments will lift travel restrictions again.
While the fleets around the world are more or less grounded, a lot is happening behind the scenes. In addition to the necessary savings measures, airlines, airports and ground handlers plan the re-entry into operation. However, unique scenarios like this cannot be processed with the standard planning process for normal flight operations. It requires a lot of beyond-routine planning expertise.
Assuming different Scenarios
It is essential to work with different scenarios, which in turn depend on a variety of other factors. A prerequisite for a return to flight operations is that the flights and the associated turnaround processes are feasible at all. The affected airports, ground handlers and executive authorities must be able to offer an executable turnaround process. This requires appropriate staffing while rebuilding a functioning operation in different phases.
The planners need to make basic assumptions for further planning. As soon as they have created a scenario that they consider to be the most likely for the next few weeks, they can proceed with more detailed steps. This possible scenario includes, for example: Domestic flights start before international flights. International flights start before continental flights. Business guests are more likely to book flights than tourists. Certain routes are more likely to be operable than others. The chosen scenario will, however, undergo permanent updating and re-evaluation of different re-implementation stages and phases.
Many different Evaluation Criteria
If an airline then decides to resume specific routes and flights back into its schedule, it must apply several additional evaluation criteria based on specific KPI: What is the expected seat load factor on the routes? How many employees are needed on the ground and in the aircraft? What is the productivity resulting from this? Which service levels can be offered to what extent? Additionally, it must be considered which pandemic-related restrictions are still to be expected.
We see, it is crucial to ask the right questions and process the right data. Next to the extended expertise of the planners, the right planning tool is key to support such a complex decision-making process. For now, there are more questions to answer than we can even imagine at the moment. One day we will surely travel as much and as free as before the crisis again. But one thing is for certain: The planning work until then will be a truly Herculean task.