Exceptional situations as the one we are facing right now with Corona have a very interesting characteristic: They expose problems and accelerate innovations.
I’ve talked to many people from airlines all over the globe in the last weeks and months. I did that because I wanted to find out about the problems airlines have during that crisis.
But I wasn’t interested in the obvious issues you can read in the news every day. I didn’t want to hear about grounded aircraft, canceled flights, or financial matters. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I am a heartless person who don’t care about these aspects. But I wanted to cut deeper. I wanted to get right into the details.
Therefore, I tried to find out how airlines, and especially the area of airline operations, handle this situation. What are the problems their facing in day-to-day operations?
Problems in day-to-day operations
Interestingly enough, during my discussions, many colleagues reported similar issues. Issues I didn’t expect but definitely made sense when thinking twice.
Here are a few examples:
- Many airlines reported that required information were distributed to slowly. That accounts for both operations department-internal but also company-wide information.
- A considerable portion of employees had a tough time when being forced to work from home because they felt cut-off of information- and communication streams.
- Mainly middle management reported enormous problems to monitor and manage the situation due to lack of information.
I can extend that list to many more bullet points. However, those three aspects already perfectly describe the dilemma that stands out: The slow distribution of information (or from a different angle: The access to information), as well as inefficient communication, can be considered as the main problem driver.
This is actually not surprising. Just remember my initial statement: Exceptional situations expose problems. The issues of distributing information swiftly and efficient communication flows are well-known problems. The thing is, in normal operations, we somehow manage to live with it. In a non-standard situation, they are a killer.
But good news on the doorstep: Personally, I do believe that the Coronacrisis is going to accelerate a development I’ve been anticipating for quite a time.
The rise of Airline (Operations) Content Apps
I genuinely believe that airlines should immediately start and set up Airline Content Apps. Let me quickly explain what’s behind that concept before I come to the benefits and reasons for it.
To make it very easy: Think about an airline operations content app as a Facebook for airline operations. An app on your mobile that provides all (relevant) airline information in an easy-to-digest and super-comfortable to use form. You open the app, simply scroll down your personalized feed and get the latest content updates in real-time on
- Key Performance Indicators (how many passengers today, how many flights, OTP, etc.)
- Latest flight updates (canceled flights, delayed flights, etc.)
- External news
- Flight lists
- Financial updates (stock prices, oil price, etc.)
- Benchmark with competitors
- Relevant NOTAMS
- Relevant Weather updates
- Social media information (Twitter, etc.)
The above list is just a tiny portion of potential content that can be contained in such an airline operations content app. Essential aspect to mention: The concept is not based on manual input of content but highly-automated and smart creation of content in real-time.
Oh, and to make it a bit more tangible, here’s a short video snippet, created as result of our (very, very) early brainstorming session in that context.
Airline Operations Content App — The Magic Bullet
Now, when you think of the problems you have been facing in the last weeks, such a solution can be considered as the magic bullet.
First, it allows every employee at your airline —the one from operations but also every other employee— to access all relevant information in a split-second. One single source for all information that is required to be aware of the situation perfectly.
Second, it allows a contextual communication. Just like social networks, employees can comment on posts. Thus, a super-efficient and extreme contextual communication —across the entire company— is enabled.
Actually, I consider that aspect as ultra-powerful (sorry for the superlative, but I’m super-pumped about that aspect).
To give you an example on that: Imagine a runway closure for a specific airport (automatically) pops in as a post. Now, the post is (just as an example) simultaneously seen by the station manager, a pilot whose next flight is planned to that destination and the Customer Care Center Manager. Immediately they can have a quick discussion in the comments section of the post. That is a) a swift process, and b) probably helps other colleagues who might have similar questions.
Summarized & Outlook
With this blog post, I only scratched the surface of this topic, and I’ll promise to deliver more content on that topic in the next weeks. However, I wanted to provide a first thought-provoking impulse with this post. I believe that, especially in times when airlines restart their operations during the next months, such a solution could make a tremendous difference!