The next major aviation disruption may have little to do with technology, but everything to do with responding to cancellations. One organization predicts airlines must learn to deal with air traffic issues, including weather and network issues, to maintain profitability in the future.
On the flight to profitability, airlines could face a major challenge that is only partially in their control. Airspace Magazine predicts carriers must learn to deal with volatility through planning flexibility to keep passengers moving and profit margins positive.
In the publication of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), the writers note air traffic in 2017 was among the most volatile in history. Drawing data from Functional Airspace Block Europe Central, traffic patterns changed month to month by swings of up to 12 percent.
Current data from the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests similar disruption in regularly scheduled airline service. In March 2018, less than 81 percent of flights were on time, with problems stemming from late arriving aircraft, general airline delays or outright cancelled flights.
Why is the airline industry seeing fractured schedules and shifting flights from month to month? The research points to delays forced from changing weather patterns and international politics. For example: when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, airlines responded by cancelling flights, shifting routes and adding more capacity to southern airports away from the contested area.
One solution for airlines requires more flexibility in aircraft, staff and scheduling. CANSO suggests airlines change staff roster policies to move crews at a moment’s notice and increasing their flying time. Adding more employees – in the cabin and the cockpit – is also required to ensure success. This may be a challenge, as airlines are facing a potential pilot shortage.
Over the long term, forecast models will need to improve as well. This could require additional cooperation between international air navigation service providers to provide real-time solutions to disruptions. On the airline side, changing the way routes are planned could improve volatility response as well.
But for all of this to happen, all parties – including airlines, air navigation providers, and governments – need to keep working together towards success.
“Regulations are the real stumbling block,” the article notes. “There are targets for delays, for example, that take no account of the various factors involved. Regulatory targets need to be more dynamic.”