In today’s world almost every company sets up key performance indicators (KPI) to track and ultimately reach corporate goals — so do airlines. Besides generic KPIs, as for example finance or marketing-related KPIs, airlines usually implement KPIs for operations monitoring and performance analysis.

However, since airline operations are based on various, complex processes, that amount of operations KPIs is sheer endless.

To give you an example: When we start a project with an airline, we usually have a set of +50 operations KPIs to launch an initial discussion. And our product catalog contains even more than 100 airline operations KPIs. Indeed, not all of them have the same priority, and many KPIs address specific business models or sub-processes.

Most Important Airline Operations KPIs – What We Analyzed

To answer the question of most important airline operations KPIs we took a look at our clients. That means we’ve analyzed more than 15 airlines using the aWall. The analyzed airlines included:

  • 4 flag carriers (e.g. Lufthansa, Saudi Arabian Airlines or Swiss Airlines)
  • 2 medium-sized airlines (e.g. Icelandair)
  • 2 Charter Operator (e.g. Condor)
  • 5 Regional carrier (e.g. Air Dolomiti)
  • 2 Low-cost airlines (e.g. Volotea)
  • 3 Cargo Airlines (e.g. Lufthansa Cargo)

For each of the airlines, we checked which KPIs they are using on their aWall channels.

6th — Misconnex Quota

Misconnex Quota calculates the percentage of connecting passengers that miss their onward flight in relation to the complete number of connecting passengers. 45% of all airlines analyzed use this KPI.

It has been quite surprising to see this KPI in this list since it is not of interest / not relevant for point-to-point airlines. Additionally, the KPI reflects a rather complex indicator, that requires a thorough calculation model and extensive data.

However, for hub-and-spoke airlines, the KPI can be seen as main differentiator and quality feature, which certainly is the reason why many of those airlines use the KPI.

5th — Arrival Punctuality

Arrival Punctuality is the percentage of flights that arrive on-time at the planned destination airport in relation to all operated flights. Normally, a flight counts as on-time if the arrival delay is not greater than 15 minutes.

Our analysis showed that 67% of all airlines are using this performance indicator.

Although we assumed this KPI to be ranked much higher, it turned out that especially network carriers aren’t focused on this indicator. Of course, that doesn’t mean these airlines are not focused on punctual operations. However, the strategic and operational goals in terms of on-time performance are often linked to different airline operations KPIs.

4th — Utilization (or seat load factor)

The Utilization KPI is calculated as the percentage of checked-in passengers in relation to available seats of an aircraft. As an additional factor, some airlines include the route length as an additional factor in the calculation.

71% of all airlines analyzed are using this figure.

Interesting fact: Utilization is the only key performance indicator of the TOP 6 KPIs that is not related to customer satisfaction, but on profit-oriented operations. That shows us that customer satisfaction or product quality are considered as the main driver and goals of airline operational performance.

3rd — Delay Minutes

In our analysis delay minutes are tracked by 82% of airlines — although this performance indicator shows up in different forms.

Some airlines show the total amounts of delay minutes as a bold number. A larger portion of airlines tend to show the delay minutes clustered according to underlying delay reasons. For example technical, handling, rotational, airport, weather. A few airlines only show delay minutes of specific reasons they consider as most important or influential for their operations.

Interesting alternatives: Some of the airlines move away from showing the plain delay minutes and put them in relation to the number of flights or passengers. Results can be the average delay minutes per flight or average delay minutes a passenger experienced today.

2nd — Regularity

The indicator reflects the percentage of operated flights in relation to planned flights. Or in other words: How many flights have been canceled. 90% of all airlines analyzed are using this fundamental performance indicator.

Although this is one of the most basic airline operations KPIs, it is surely one of the most important — especially to passengers. The reason why not every airline takes care of this KPI can be found in the specific charter operations model. Since charter airlines typically don’t cancel flights (but delay them sometimes for more than a day), these airlines aren’t using the KPI on a day-to-day basis.

1st — Departure Punctuality

And here we go with the winner: Based on our analysis, Departure Punctuality reflects the most important KPI for airlines. 100% of airlines analyzed are using this performance indicator.

Departure Punctuality is calculated as the percentage of flights that depart on-time at the planned origin airport in relation to all operated flights. Normally, a flight is counted as on-time if the departure delay is not greater than 15 minutes.

Actually, it wasn’t a big surprise to have this KPI ranked first since departure punctuality is one of the most significant quality KPIs for airlines — especially when it comes to competitive advantages.

Airline Performance Analysis — where are the environmental indicators?

Interesting fact: Although environmental KPIs (for example, fuel consumption, CO2) do not rank along with TOP 6 KPIs, we’ve seen a considerable increase in their usage. Will be interesting to see how this develops in the future.

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Benjamin is an information-enthusiast, a content-maniac, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions with the aim to change the way companies use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned companies all over the globe.