There’s probably no other industry that has been hit by COVID-19 as hard as the airline industry. 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 an airline has to start to plan for the COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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 airline 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 After COVID-19
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-19 time won’t have the same relevance in post-COVID-19 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-10 operations, it requires a different set of airline KPIs to ensure re-starting success after COVID-19.
Relevant Post-COVID-19 Airline KPIs
With the following, I introduce several KPIs that, from my perspective, will be critical to managing the re-start of the airline’s operations after COVID-19, or at least after the first wave of COVID-19.
Important to mention that those KPIs focus on airline 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 after COVID-19.
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 of 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-19 times this KPI gains even more importance since it shows the heartbeat of your airline 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 airline’s operations. Besides real-time values and comparisons to pre-COVID-19 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.
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 your airline currently serves. Additionally, this is put into 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 re-starts, 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.”