Let’s kick-off this blog post with a simple question: How aware are you of your airline’s turnaround process?
I’m pretty sure that most of you answer that question with the confidence to know how a turnaround works. Moreover, it even sounds like a trivial question to you.
However, when moving away from a generic level and going into details, I believe you would be surprised by the amount of processes that are happening. As soon as an aircraft touches the ground and prepares for its next flight, a complex mechanism starts that variates according to different factors.
There are different aircraft types, airports, suppliers, and even during the different seasons, some additional processes have to take place. Deicing is just on example for such a seasonal process.
Subsequently, this implies that the volume of generated data for every turnaround process can be literally beyond your imagination.
Airline Turnaround: Here’s what you get with this blog post
That’s why today, I am going to talk about the relevance of having an adequately defined turnaround process. But even more important, I will help you to understand the vast amount of data that a turnaround generates. And finally, I will show you how to transform this data into a valuable and insightful Turnaround KPI Dashboard.
Step 1: Understand your airline’s turnaround processes — in detail!
Many different processes are happening during the time an aircraft is on ground.
Therefore, the first step is to identify what are the processes that take place during this time. It is crucial before entering to analyze the data, to understand how the processes work to identify the possible irregularities effectively.
That means in a first step, you have to sit together with your ground operations team and supplier. That incorporates your fuel provider, catering supplier, airport staff, etc.. Jointly you have to work on a thorough process analysis. In fact, this is complex and doesn’t happen overnight. However, it reflects the essential step to an improved turnaround process based on data and information visualization.
Many of the airlines I’ve worked with already had a proper baseline with documented processes. Accordingly, they only had to re-assess the process, add details, and bring them up-to-date.
Step 2: Turnaround data gathering!
Once you have a perfect understanding of your turnaround process, it’s time to identify where your data comes from. Naturally, there’s not only one but multiple sources that provide data. Suppliers, for example, catering, cleaning, fueling, are just a few examples of data sources. Additionally, aircraft can automatically generate timestamps, such as deboarding, loading, etc..
But here the tricky part starts. When looking at potential data sources, it is essential to consider various aspects, especially when having the KPIs in mind you want to create as a result of this whole exercise.
Questions that arise rapidly:
- What are the variables and/or attributes required for your KPIs?
- What are the sources delivering data for these attributes?
- Is the data manually generated?
- Is the data automated?
Digging into the details of an airline’s turnaround process
As an example of complexity, I would like to go further into detail with this last point.
In case the data is automated, there are other factors to take into account. In the case the aircraft triggers data automatically, you need to take into account the following:
- Amount of automated fleet: % of your total fleet that counts with automated data generators (i.e., Doors triggering timestamps when opening or closing)
- Automated aircraft types: From all the fleet types, there are probably some older versions without the automation feature. Here it is necessary to determine the additional sources of data for these non-automated aircraft.
In the case of manually generated timestamps depending on staff actions to trigger the data, the process needs to be more strictly defined. Below a few examples that come to my head:
- Catering suppliers must press a button on the catering truck to confirm the catering process has ended.
- Cleaning suppliers must indicate the moment where the first cleaning staff member entered the aircraft to indicate the cleaning process has initiated.
- Deboarding end in remote position as the last passenger bus driver pushes a button when leaving from plane to terminal.
Why the heck should I take all these aspects into account?
That’s maybe the question that’s running around in your head right now. The only answer I can provide is: Transparency is highly dependent on the details. The more you understand your process and data in particular, the easier you create awareness of irregularities or bottlenecks within the turnaround process.
Let’s get practical: Airline turnaround timestamp concept
To facilitate this entire amount of processes and sub-processes involved in the turnaround, we would like to share a concept with you. The approach is based on timestamps generated by specific attributes that are an excellent insight to create turnaround KPIs as a further step.
With the use of a timeline from the actual arrival time (on-block) of the inbound flight until the actual departure time (off-block) of the outbound flight, you can determine the setup of the process.
Here is an example of how the process timestamps can be distributed:
- Set up target (scheduled) times and actual times
- Set up reference points
- Request of a process
- In position
- Process begin
- Process end
Important note: Take into account that not all processes and or attributes contain a request or position time. These are usually required for processes involving vehicles such as catering trucks, fueling trucks, crew bus or passenger bus for boarding or deboarding. Below you can see a diagram to visualize how processes and sub-processes can be distributed.
In each of the processes, there are the reference points mentioned as well as specific attribute examples that the airline can use to define the process. Besides, there are other relevant times to take into account. Here are a few examples:
- Actual Available Ground: Time that indicates how long the plane was actually on the ground.
- Scheduled Ground Time which is the difference between the STA (inbound) and STD (outbound)
- Minimum Ground Time, which indicates the minimum time an aircraft must be on the ground to be able to complete a turnaround process.
Step 3: Visualizing your airline’s turnaround process
Once you have your processes, subprocesses, attributes, and timestamps defined, we can proceed to the KPI definition and visualization concept.
Below you can see a dashboard from a specific airport station and the turnaround process of a single day of operation.
Punctuality Arrival 3′
This is a very important KPI because, from this KPI, you can determine the available ground time for performing the turnaround processes. If inbound flight legs arrive with a delay, the available ground time can suffer to perform all required sub-processes.
Ground Time sufficiency
The KPI results out of the share of flights with an on-time arrival and on-time departure concerning all arrived flights.
Process Delay Top 5
This KPI is relevant for determining alerts and bottlenecks. Which processes are having more delays? Especially in crisis, the KPI helps to evaluate, identify, and repair the delay causes/reasons.
The Turnaround Gantt widget shows the average situation of the ground processes in the last 120 minutes (this period can be customized). The delays are the difference between the scheduled times and the actual times of a turnaround process.
As you can see in the Gantt chart, the sequence and dependencies define the position of processes. At the beginning and the end of the process, it shows the delays per process, also early starts and ends. The values are average values overall processes in the time frame.
Process delays may have an impact on the critical path, hence overall turnaround, which typically causes a departure delay. These delays have a red status. Red color indicates such processes within the Gantt Chart.
There are also process delays that are not in the critical path or have a buffer. We use orange to highlight the status of such processes. A process may have both critical and non-critical delays because the reference models are different per aircraft types and might offer buffers. Finally, green status marks early starts.
Delayed Ground Processes Table
The table indicates the outbound flight legs that had delays in the different turnaround processes. Based on that you can see the following details:
- Specific process causing the delay
- In which point of the process (begin or end)
- Duration of the delay
- Number of affected passengers
Punctuality Departure 15′
On-time performance is necessary to understand if delays in the turnaround process are impacting the operation. In a normal operation scenario, on-time performance reflects one of the most critical KPIs.
Delay Top 5′
The delay top 5 KPI provides an overview of all the delay reasons for the operations during the day. This KPI gives us a glimpse of how the turnaround process is having an impact in comparison to the other delay reasons such as weather or airport. If turnaround is the main cause of delay, it’s time to make decisions.
As mentioned before, the turnaround process depends on multiple sources and suppliers. Accordingly, up-to-date information in case of irregularities or problems are crucial. Therefore, a news widget with information that can impact our regular operation improves our awareness.
Let us know your thoughts!
There are many options for how to work with the turnaround process data. What other KPIs come into your mind that are relevant to evaluate the performance of the turnaround process? We are always happy to hear your ideas.