Times are tough like they’ve never been for airlines. Aircraft are grounded, flight schedules are operated at a minimum and many airlines shut down their operations even completely.

It might feel strange and optimistic, but I’m totally convinced that airlines have to start to plan for the re-start right now. And from many airlines I’ve been talking to the recent weeks, I know that they’ve started to develop “re-start” scenarios.

Similar to a football game this crisis has two half-times

From my point of view, the pandemic disaster is similar to a football game: It has two half-times. Currently, we are in the first half. Everything is shut down, and you need your financial experts to ensure cash-flows, discuss state aids, etc. Your financial experts are similar to the defense of a football team. They are the backup and the fundament for a successful offense.

During the second half, it gets time for your offense: Your flight planners, operational staff, commercial team, etc. It is about getting your operations back on track — step-by-step. Knowing that this will be a huge challenge. Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, described the endeavor as setting up an entirely new airline – operational-wise.

A famous football coach once said, “a game has to half-times.” That means you can’t win a game if you’re only playing well in one half. In my opinion, the same accounts for airlines during this challenging time.

Not a single passenger will care about a 30-minute delay

That’s precisely why airlines have to start preparations now. Obviously, many of the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) airlines were paying attention to in pre-COVID time won’t have the same relevance in post-COVID time.

I’m profoundly convinced that on-time performance, misconnex quota, or even more sophisticated KPIs, for example, aircraft readiness or security waiting times won’t be critical in the beginning and for the upcoming months. This definitely accounts for both the airline itself but also the passengers. Not a single passenger will care about a 30-minute delay after staying at home for two months.

However, from an airline point-of-view, it will be essential to monitor the process of re-starting operations closely. Nonetheless, in contrary to pre-COVID operations, it requires a different set of airline KPIs to ensure the re-starting success after COVID.

Relevant post-COVID airline KPIs

With the following, I introduce six KPIs that, from my perspective, will be critical to manage the re-start of the airline’s operations. Important to mention that those KPIs focus on operations only. Of course, there are many other KPIs, financial, commercial, HR, etc., which are of importance but not covered by this blog post.

Grounded Aircraft / Recovered Aircraft

Giving the fact that currently, most airlines have grounded the complete or at least a significant amount of their aircraft fleet, this number will be an essential indicator to monitor the re-starting process.

The KPI makes sense as total value concerning the entire fleet (e.g., 25 of 75 aircraft are grounded) or a percentage (33% of aircraft are grounded). Additionally, to be more positive, the KPI can be visualized as aircraft back to operations, which shows the numbers vice versa.

Here’s a visual example how the KPI could look:

Number of flights

I’ve always been a big fan of this very basic KPI. It simply shows the number of scheduled flights for a day and the value of already operated flights at this very minute. Although a straightforward KPI, it perfectly reflects the heart of your business.

In post-COVID time this KPI gains even more importance since it shows the heartbeat and hopefully gains traction with every day/week. To make it tangible, it’d make sense to show the relation to pre-COVID time.

Number of passengers

Similar to the number of flights, this is the second fundamental KPI, that perfectly reflects your operations. Besides real-time values and comparisons to pre-COVID time, it is essential to visualize the development of the KPI for a specified period (week, months, etc.).

With a constantly growing (probably slowly, but constantly) number of passengers, this KPI will create a motivational effect, since everybody can witness the revitalization of your operations.

Recovered Routes

A performance indicator that reflects how far your efforts to reach pre-COVID operations have been executed. The KPI shows the number of operated routes in relation to pre-COVID time. Again visualization of total values or percentages may be reasonable here.

Recovered / Restricted Countries

Especially for large carriers serving a significant number of countries, this KPI is of particular interest. Similar to the KPI “Recovered Routes” the indicator shows how many countries are currently served and the relation to pre-COVID time. Alternatively, it can also make sense to show the restricted countries as shown in the example below.

Utilization / Seat Load Factor

I know, once the operation is about to be re-started, airlines won’t care about their seat load factors. Nevertheless, I genuinely believe that it is essential to have a close eye on SLF right from the beginning. However, contrary to pre-COVID, the focus won’t be to maximize SLF (at least not at the beginning), but again this KPI provides a comprehensive overview of how close your airline is back to “normality.”

What’s your opinion?

What are the KPIs you’re planning to track once operations re-starts? Discuss with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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Benjamin is an aviation-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 aviation industry. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry, and working with renowned airlines such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Air India, Aegean Airlines, Saudia Airlines, S7, Icelandair and many others.