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Airline Operations: What Airlines Need to Tackle the New Normal!

After more than a year of Coronavirus pandemic, airline operations departments get ready for a rebound in traffic. But many things have changed. We analyzed the performance of airline operations departments during the pandemic and present what's needed to tackle the future.

Airline Operations — Key Element for the Upcoming Months

Highly efficient airline operations will be a decisive aspect of restarting more and more routes during the upcoming months. However, more than a year of pandemics has exposed many airlines’ problems in their operational departments. We talked to representatives from many airlines to put together the biggest struggles they’ve experienced. On top of that, we present measures that help airlines address the challenges and tackle the New Normal. Here’s an overview of what you will find:

Airline Operations in Pandemics — What we Found out!
Three Core Challenges
Why the New Normal Won’t Solve the Problem
Why Airline Operations Apps (Will) Play an Essential Role?
How Airlines Plan to use Operations Apps?

Airline Operations in Pandemics — What we Found out!

During the last couple of months, we’ve talked to many airline operations representatives from all over the globe. We did that because we wanted to find out about the problems they had and have during that crisis. However, we didn’t want to hear about the obvious issues, such as low passenger figures or grounded aircraft. Instead, we wanted to cut deeper and get right into the details: How did airline operations change? What problems occurred on day-to-day operations? What are the fears and biggest challenges colleagues from airline operations experienced?

Three Core Challenges In Day-To-Day Airline Operations

After many talks, it turned out that most colleagues from airline operations face the same type of problems. Here’s what they said.

Slow Distribution of Information

Without a doubt, Corona has been an unbelievable dynamic pandemic. In many regions, the situation and regulations changed on a daily or weekly basis. The same accounted for airlines themselves. Which routes to operate, how many employees to lay off, or how many aircraft must be parked — this is just a small portion of questions airlines had to evaluate and answer every day. In this context, many colleagues from airline operations reported that required a slow distribution of information. That accounts for both operations department-internal but also company-wide information. Moreover, remote work and home office further accelerated and worsened the problem.

Cut-Off of Information Streams

A considerable portion of airline operations employees had a tough time working from home because they felt cut-off of information- and communication streams. Many people reported a massive lack of information caused by remote work and reduced information and information flow.

Massive Management Challenge

Particularly middle management reported enormous problems to monitor and manage the situation due to a lack of information. Moreover, airline operations management reported challenges in terms of internal communication workflows.

The Essence of Airline Operations Problems

The three aspects perfectly describe the dilemma that stands out: The slow distribution of information (or from a different angle: The access to information) and inefficient communication can be considered the main problem driver. Actually, this isn’t surprising from our point of view. Here are two reasons why:

  1. Due to airline operations’ real-time and dynamic character, efficient information and communication flows are extremely relevant.
  2. The issues of distributing information swiftly and efficient communication flows are well-known problems. The thing is, in normal operations, airlines somehow manage to live with it. However, in a non-standard situation, they are a killer.

Why the New Normal Won’t Solve the Problem

Besides understanding the problems airline operations faced during the pandemic, it is even more important to understand that the aspects won’t vanish once the pandemic’s impact reduces. Although the situation will calm down, airlines will undergo major disruptions in the next years. That implies new routes, new ways of operations, new business on the one side, and new working forms (remote work) on the other side. Therefore, the above-described problems will remain.


Why Airline Operations Apps (Will) Play an Essential Role?

From our perspective, a solution to this problem is in digitizing the former manual and analog processes. However, we believe that the prominent tools that might come into your mind (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) won’t do the trick here. On the contrary, we think that airline operations require dedicated apps that focus on specific content.

To make it very easy: Think about an airline operations content app as a Facebook for airline operations. In other words, an app on your mobile that provides all (relevant) airline information in an easy-to-digest and super-comfortable to use form. Moreover, such an app must contain a variety of relevant information for airline operations.

Information TypeExplanation
Key Performance IndicatorsA set of relevant KPIs, such as the number of lights, on-time performance, passengers, etc. (Check out our comprehensive list of airline KPIs for details)
Flight UpdatesLatest updates about cancellations, delays, or other flight news.
External NewsAny external news that might impact flight operations.
Flight ListsA detailed list of all current and planned flights with additional attributes.
BenchmarksReal-time information about competitors (number of flights, passengers, on-time performance, etc.)
Airport & Airspace UpdatesNOTAMs or other relevant messages.
Weather UpdatesMETARs, TAFs, or other relevant messages.
Social Media UpdatesRelevant updates from social media channels, such as Twitter or Facebook.
StatisticsMore detailed analyses and statistics to assess the current situation.
PredictionsIf possible, predictions about future problems and issues.

The above list is just a tiny portion of potential content that can be contained in such an airline operations content app.

How Airlines Plan to use Operations Apps?

When you think of the problems airline operations have faced during the pandemic, such a solution can be considered the magic bullet. Firstly, it allows every airline operations colleague to access all relevant information in a split second. Accordingly, it represents a single source for all information is required to be aware of the situation perfectly. Secondly, it allows contextual communication. Just like social networks, employees can comment on posts. This enables super-efficient and extreme contextual communication – across the entire company!

For instance, imagine a runway closure for a specific airport (automatically) pops in as a post. 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. As a result, they can have a quick discussion in the comments section of the post immediately. Thus, a) a swift process, and b) probably helps other colleagues who might have similar questions.

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Benjamin Walther

CEO, Frankfurt

Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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