The most successful airlines are successful because they keep tracking and monitoring their airline operations KPIs. They literally swim in data and performance indicators. These airlines understood that every decision has to be based on data and KPIs. If you don’t know your performance at every point in time, you have no idea or possibility to improve. That’s why you have to keep a close eye on your KPIs, especially in operations.
Airline Operations KPIs — Our Most Precious Knowledge
With this post, we share a part of our most precious knowledge. The knowledge that has been gathered from KPI projects with airlines around the globe. From large flag carriers to charter and low-cost operators. From network airlines to point-to-point and regional carriers. Throughout these projects, we defined and set up nearly 100 different airline operations KPIs. Some of the KPIs are common, but some are also very particular.
77 Airline Operations KPIs — An Overview
For this post, we put together 77 of these KPIs. We have clustered these KPIs according to different operational aspects. What’s the idea behind it? We wanted to create a source for your thoughts. You can go through a list to pick up new ideas that will help your airline become even more successful. And in case you want to jump to certain aspects directly, here’s the overview:
- General Airline Operations KPIs
- Passenger KPIs
- Operations Control KPIs
- Connex Management KPIs
- Weight & Balance KPIs
- Baggage Management KPIs
- Airline Punctuality KPIs
- Fuel & Environmental KPIs
- Maintenance KPIs
- Crew KPIs
- General Performance KPIs
- Crisis KPIs
General Airline Operations KPIs
General operations KPIs focus on basic performance figures and high-level information. In addition, they aim to provide a good overview of the current processes. Most airlines use the KPIs either in real-time or for reporting purposes.
The Arrival Delay KPI counts the number of delay minutes for all arrived flights.
With this KPI, the share of flights with an arrival delay is tracked in relation to the total number of operated flights.
Arrivals is a very basic KPI that simply counts the number of arrived flights. Usually, airlines put the KPI in context with the number of planned arrivals for a certain period.
Certainly, a basic KPI but probably one of the most essential — especially from a passengers-point-of-view. The KPI counts the number of canceled flights for a specific period.
A KPI that provides some context when it comes to canceled flights. The KPI calculates the share of canceled flights in relation to the total number of operated flights.
This KPI calculates the number of delay minutes of all flights. Important to mention that most airlines calculate delay minutes in the context of departures.
Delay reasons are somehow a more specific presentation of delay minutes. However, since many airlines track both KPIs, we thought it makes sense to list them both too. Delay reasons cluster the number of delay minutes according to reasons defined by the IATA.
Another delay-related but probably one of the most essential. The departure dealy KPI tracks the number of delay minutes of all departed flights.
Departure Delay per Passenger
This KPI represents a more sophisticated version of the departure delay KPI. Departure delay per passenger puts the total amount of delay minutes concerning the total amount of passengers transported. Thereby, airlines create a weighted KPI that focuses on passenger satisfaction.
Departure Delay per Flight
Another variation of the departure delay KPI. Departure delay per flight puts the total amount of delay minutes concerning the total amount of flights operated. So again, the KPI helps to assess the aspect of delays better.
Similar to the Arrivals KPI, Departures represent a very basic KPI. The KPI simply counts the number of departed flights.
The most prominent and most common operations KPI among airlines. The KPI calculates the share of flights with a departure delay in relation to the total number of operated flights. Typically, a flight is considered delayed when it arrives more than 15 minutes ahead or behind schedule.
Diversion reflects a simple yet critical KPI for airlines. A diversion is defined as rerouting to an airport different from the scheduled airport while the flight is en route. Diversions are a considerable irregularity usually triggered by weather situations, technical problems, or medical emergencies. Therefore, the Diversion KPI counts the number of flights with a diversion event.
Regularity is another fundamental airline operations KPI. It calculates the number of operated flights in relation to all scheduled flights for a period and, thereby, is a reliable indicator of an airline’s flight schedule robustness.
The Utilization KPI provides high-level insights into an airline’s profitability. The KPI is calculated as the share of check-in or boarded passengers concerning all departed flights’ available seats.
Seat Load Factor
Another very major and joint airline operations KPI. Seat Load Factor is the dimensionless ratio of passenger-kilometers traveled to seat-kilometers available.
An essential KPI that counts the number of re-routings. Rerouting is defined as the change of a flight’s arrival airport before departure.
With passenger-related KPIs, airlines gain insights into the number of transported passengers and various quality-related aspects.
Passengers en Route
Passengers En-Route reflect a real-time performance figure. The KPI provides benefits in terms of corporate-wide awareness but is also used as a motivational factor. It’s simply calculated as the sum of all boarded passengers for flights en-route.
In fact, one of the essential Key Performance Indicators. The KPI reflects the sum of all transported passengers for specified periods, such as days, weeks, or months. Besides the overall numbers, many airlines cluster the KPI according to compartments (first, business, premium-eco, eco).
Satisfied Passenger Quota
The Satisfied Passenger Quota is an advanced but incredibly insightful KPI. The KPI calculates passengers’ share that arrived on time at the scheduled airport concerning all transported passengers.
Unsatisfied Passengers Quota
Like the above, the KPI calculates passengers’ share arriving late or not at destination in relation to all transported passengers.
Disruption Affected Passengers
Another very insightful airline operations KPI. The indicator reflects the number of passengers affected by major (cancellation, diversion, etc.) or minor (delay) disruptions.
A basic KPI provides the number of passengers scheduled for a certain period (day, week, etc.)
Operations Control KPIs
Let’s dig a little bit deeper into the operational processes of an airline. With the following so-called operations control KPIs, airlines spotlight the stability of their operational processes. Of course, the KPIs aren’t that prominent to the “outside world.” However, they are essential for tracking, monitoring, and benchmarking the operational processes of airlines.
During the planning process, airlines assign aircraft to each flight. The Aircraft Changes KPI tracks the amount of ad-hoc changes of planned aircraft.
Similar to aircraft changes, the Equipment Changes KPI tracks modifications to the aircraft/flight assignment. Equipment changes describe an aircraft change with an aircraft of a different sub fleet (e.g., planned aircraft A320 changes to B737). Equipment changes have a massive impact on operational processes. The KPI counts the number of equipment changes for a certain period (day, week, month, etc.)
Gate Changes reflect another stability KPI. The KPI calculates the number of performed gate changes for a specified period.
Besides the aircraft, the cockpit and cabin crew represent another relevant asset. Airlines have pretty sophisticated crew planning processes resulting in an assignment of crew members to flights. The KPI tracks the number of performed crew changes for a specified period.
Number of Irregularities
The KPI tracks the number of irregularities (for example, delays, aircraft changes, diversions, etc.) for a specified period.
The Irregularity Ratio represents a more sophisticated but again, very insightful airline operations KPI. The KPI puts the number of flights affected by an irregularity in relation to all flights operated.
Ad-hoc changes summarize all changes (crew, time, gate, aircraft, etc.) during the day-of-operations.
Schedule Stability again reflects a fundamental airline operations KPI. The KPI calculates the percentage of flights operated as scheduled. In other words, the rate of flights that are not impacted by changes of any type.
Connex Management KPIs
Connection (Connex) Management is like playing champions league. It requires thorough planning and precise processes to connect inbound and outbound flights and enable a smooth passenger transit. Therefore, airlines use a specific set of KPIs to track connex performance.
Let’s start with a straightforward KPI. MisConnex Passengers calculates the number of checked-in passengers that failed to connect to their onward flight.
Quickly explained and simply the opposite of the last one. The Connex Passengers KPI calculates the number of checked-in passengers booked on more than one flight leg.
The Connex Ratio KPI is an important figure to assess the complexity of operations. The KPI calculates the percentage of connex passengers in relation to the overall amount of passengers. Especially on a day-to-day basis, the KPI provides essential insights.
Misconnex Quota is quite a complex but again essential KPI when it comes to network carriers’ operations. The KPI reflects the share of checked-in passengers who traveled their first flight leg and did not manage to connect to their onward flight related to all passengers with an onward flight. Particularly for hub-and-spoke airlines, the KPI can be seen as one of the most critical quality measures.
Minimum Connecting Time Sufficiency
The Minimum Connecting Time Sufficiency is a particular variation of the Misconnex Quota. From our experience, only a few airlines use this complex KPI. It calculates the number of passengers who fail to connect to their onward flight, although their connecting time is sufficient.
Weight & Balance KPIs
Let’s get the aircraft ready for its trip. Weight and balance KPIs are essential during an aircraft’s loading process. We provide you with the most critical.
Another simple to calculate yet crucial key performance indicator. The KPI calculates the weight-loaded baggage in tons.
Bags on Board
The bags on board is usually provided in two ways. First, for a single flight, it gives the number of bags that are loaded into the aircraft. Moreover, many airlines use the KPI to show the total number of bags for all currently operated flights.
Cargo weight is another basic KPI that provides the amount of cargo (in tonnes) of each flight resp. aircraft.
Baggage Management KPIs
Although we provide some baggage-related key performance indicators in the chapter “Weight & Balance KPIs”, Baggage Management KPIs hold some more sophisticated baggage KPIs. In general, baggage management KPIs are relatively complex to calculate due to the availability of data. Nonetheless, they have enormous information potential, especially concerning passenger satisfaction.
Left Behind Index
Left behind describes baggage that hasn’t been loaded to the aircraft and remains at the origin airport. Accordingly, the left behind index KPI calculates the amount of left-behind baggage concerning overall transported baggage.
Left behind baggage
Left-behind baggage is closely related to the left behind index KPI. Instead of calculating a percentage, this KPI provides the total number of baggage left at the origin airport.
Mishandled Baggage Index
Mishandled baggage describes each piece of baggage that isn’t delivered at the planned destination airport. The reasons are manifold: left-behind, loaded to the wrong aircraft, lost, damaged, etc. Compared to the left-behind index, the key performance indicator is a holistic view of the baggage topic. Accordingly, the mishandled baggage index KPI calculates the amount of mishandled baggage concerning overall transported luggage.
Accordingly, the mishandled baggage index KPI calculates the amount of mishandled baggage concerning overall transported baggage.
An essential KPI that calculates the overall amount of bags handled during a period (hour, day, week, etc.)
Airline Punctuality KPIs
Let’s dive into a very sophisticated topic we like to call airline punctuality KPIs. However, this is not about the standard punctuality KPIs but very specific performance indicators. Airlines use these KPIs to closely monitor particular turn-around aspects that heavily influence the airline’s punctuality.
Ground Time Recovery
The ground time recovery KPI analyzes flights (or aircraft) with a delayed arrival but on-time departure of the consecutive flight. In other words: Flights that recovered a delay during the ground time. The KPI is calculated as the share of flights with a delayed arrival (ATA > STA) and on-time departure of the consecutive flight, concerning all delayed arrivals.
Ground Time Sufficiency
Ground time sufficiency eyes for flights/aircraft that arrived on-time and departed on-time with consecutive flights. Accordingly, the ground time was sufficient for those flights. The KPI is calculated as the share of flights with on-time arrival and on-time departure in relation to all arrived flights.
Block Time Recovery
Basically, the KPI is the opposite of the ground time recovery KPI. It calculates the share of flights with a delayed departure (ATD > STD) but on-time arrival. In other words: Flights that recovered a delay during flight time.
Block Time Sufficiency
Basically, the KPI is the opposite (or call it add-on) to ground time sufficiency. It calculates the share of flights with an on-time departure and on-time arrival relation to all arrived flights.
Aircraft readiness reflects a KPI that is complex to calculate since it requires various data. The KPI describes the number of flights where aircraft have been ready at boarding begin in relation to all flights operated.
Standby Aircraft Availability
Standby aircraft availability is an essential yet crucial KPI. The key performance indicator provides the amount of standby aircraft available.
Average Taxi-In / Taxi-Out Time
The KPI represents the average time between a touchdown and on-blocks / off-blocks and airborne aircraft. The KPI is usually only tracked for important hubs/home bases.
Fuel & Environment KPIs
Fuel- and environment-related key performance indicators are getting gaining increasing importance at many airlines. Therefore, many airlines have started to track and monitor related KPIs for their operations.
The fuel consumption KPI represents the total amount of burned fuel for a specific period (hour, day, week, month, etc.). Usually, airlines cluster the KPI according to their fleets (Boeing vs. Airbus, long-haul vs. short-haul, etc.) to add additional context to the KPIs. However, both information types, the overall number, as well as filtered information are relevant.
Fuel Consumption per Passenger
Fuel consumption per passenger reflects an essential KPI describing the ecological footprint of an airline. In addition to the plain fuel consumption, it takes the number of transported passengers into the calculation.
Fuel Consumption per Passenger Kilometer
Another variation of the fuel consumption KPI adds a second aspect to the KPI. Besides the number of passengers, the KPI includes the distance for calculation. Accordingly, the KPI is calculated as the total amount of fuel burned in relation to operated passenger-kilometer.
Similar to fuel consumption, the KPI calculates the total amount of CO2 generated for a specific period.
CO2 Consumption per Passenger
Similar to fuel consumption per passenger, the key performance indicator calculates the CO2 consumption per passenger.
CO2 Consumption per Passenger Kilometer
Finally, and similar to fuel consumption per passenger kilometer, the KPI calculates the CO2 consumption per passenger-kilometer.
Airline Maintenance KPIs
Let’s move on to another field that is crucial for punctual airline operations: Maintenance. In this context, we’ve collected six KPIs we consider essential for successful airline operations.
Number of AOGs (Aircraft On Ground)
The term “Aircraft On Ground” indicates an aircraft’s ad-hoc inability for further usage due to technical issues. An AOG —always— represents one of the most critical disruptions to the flight schedule. Depending on your aircraft reserves, an AOG can directly lead to flight cancellations. Accordingly, it is crucial to have a close eye on the number of AOG during day-to-day operations. The KPI calculates the current number of AOGs.
Unplanned events represent another critical aspect. Usually, maintenance events follow precise planning and scheduling for every aircraft. If everything works as planned, thresholds (number of cycles, block hours, etc.) define the maintenance event’s execution. In that context, unplanned events represent aircraft maintenance tasks (on the day of operations) that haven’t been scheduled. The KPI is usually calculated as the number of unplanned events and clustered according to event type and fleet.
Obviously, planned checks are the opposite of unplanned events. The KPI provides an overview of today’s planned maintenance events, including event type and affected aircraft and/or fleet.
The event punctuality KPI is the on-time performance of an aircraft maintenance event. Since every planned aircraft maintenance event has a scheduled finish time, you can precisely track punctuality. Accordingly, the event punctuality is calculated as the share of events executed as planned in relation to all completed events.
Standy aircraft represents one of the essential aircraft maintenance KPIs. Although airlines (at least pre-COVID) continuously reduced the number of standby aircraft due to the immense aircraft demand, it is just vital to monitor this KPI. The KPI itself is relatively simple: It calculates and shows the number of available standby aircraft. Of course, depending on an airline’s fleet structure, clustering the KPI according to aircraft types is reasonable.
Standby Aircraft Utilization
The standby aircraft utilization KPIs provides information about standby planning efficiency. The KPI calculates the amount of time standby aircraft has been used in relation to the available aircraft standby time.
Besides Maintenance, Crew reflects another area that highly influences airline operations. Therefore, we put together five relevant crew KPIs to track and monitor.
Standby Crew Availability
Standby crew availability represents another basic but utmost relevant key performance indicator. Standby crew shows the amount of available backup crew. Usually, airlines cluster the KPI according to different aircraft types and positions (caption, SFO, FO, purser, cabin crew).
Crew Bus Punctuality
At many airports, dedicated buses transport the flight crew to their aircraft. Accordingly, the on-time performance of the crew buses reflects a critical aspect of the ground processes. The crew bus punctuality KPI calculates the number of flights with an on-time arrival of the crew bus concerning the airport’s total number of flights. Worth mentioning that the KPI requires thorough concepts and a clear definition of ground process timestamps.
In an ideal world, a flight crew (Cockpit and cabin) operate the same aircraft for an entire shift. However, the necessity to change aircraft during a shift —always— holds the potential for disruptions. Accordingly, the crew changes key performance indicator calculates the number of flights where the crew must change the aircraft about all flights operated (clustered according to cockpit and cabin crew).
Some airlines defined sophisticated ground process models. Accordingly, they calculate target timestamps for every process resp. milestones. The milestone “Boarding begin” is one of the essential ground process milestones. However, the KPI “Crew Readiness” calculates the number of flights where the crew was ready for boarding once the milestone boarding begin was reached and put that into relation to the overall number of flights.
Crew en Route
A very basic KPI that provides the number of cockpit and cabin crew currently en route.
Airline Performance KPIs
With our second last chapter, we spotlight the overall operational performance of an airline and relevant key performance indicators in this area.
Aircraft Utilization / Productivity
Aircraft utilization (or productivity) represents a common KPI of the industry. The KPI calculates total operated block hours and puts them to available hours (depending on definition).
Some airlines can calculate the profitability of each flight on-the-fly. The KPI is typically used to assess schedule changes. Moreover, the KPI is presented as overall profitability or clustered to aircraft types, routes, or traffic regions.
Profitability ratio is a very insightful and “easy-to-digest” KPI at the same time. The KPI provides the share of flights operated profitably in relation to all operated flights.
Compensation costs reflect another extremely valuable KPI. The indicator calculates the compensation costs due to delayed/canceled flights and related aspects (passengers, delay reasons, traffic region, etc.)
According to one of our latest articles about airline dashboards that focus on crises, we complete the list of 77 key performance indicators with crisis-KPIs.
The KPI simply provides information about the number of flights that aren’t operated due to specific reasons (strike, airspace closure, pandemic, ash cloud, etc.)
The KPI “Restricted Destinations” became super-relevant once COVID-19 hit airlines. The indicator provides information about the number of airports that cannot be approached at the moment due to specific circumstances.
One of the most critical KPIs during a crisis. The KPI calculates the number of passengers impacted by the situation. Impacted in this context is about flight cancellations, diversion, re-routings, delays, etc.
Another relevant KPI that helps to assess a crisis. The KPI calculates the number of passenger rebookings necessary due to a specific crisis.
Parked Aircraft / Aircraft On Ground
And finally, a KPI that also became prominent during COVID-19. However, the KPI was also used in prior crises, such as 9/11. The KPI calculates the number of aircraft that are currently parked and not operated due to a specific situation.