Multiple airlines around the world soon face critical decisions as support for legacy flight operations systems is phased out. Operators can choose to migrate to their longtime provider’s new software or look across the market for one or more systems to handle essential crew planning, day-of-operations, crew management and flight planning tasks. Other airlines might not be under a deadline but may seek new systems to increase efficiency and better match current operations. Whatever the impetus, system modernization brings new technologies that streamline the overall flight operations management process, from decision-making, to automating the execution, to communication with crew members via mobile applications.
The challenge involves resources and focus. With system selection and implementation occurring every couple of decades, most operations control team members have not been involved in a switchover during their careers. Airlines also find it difficult to dedicate team members to choosing and implementing a system, as most operate lean resource models and often those resources are heavily focused on operational priorities. Additionally, multiple organizational business units must be involved, including unions.
With a partner that can guide and manage the process end to end, an airline can ensure a project begins and then stays on track. Steps can include identifying requirements, assessing system options, fashioning RFIs and RFPs, ensuring a successful implementation, and providing change management and post-cutover support.
Disruptions, costs and passenger frustrations cascade when an aircraft goes out of service or severe weather brings delays and cancellations. A single pilot or attendant arriving late can delay or cancel multiple flights. Cascading delays can also cause crew legality issues late into the evening, also resulting in last-minute flight cancellations. Flight operations systems are essential to efficient operations, as they encompass such roles as crew planners, schedulers, flight followers, dispatchers, maintenance controllers and planners, station agents, and, of course, pilots and attendants.
Flight operations systems can be complex to implement, and as a result, airlines may hesitate to make a change because of the potential for operational disruption and staff’s desire to stick with what they know. With some systems sunsetting, airlines must make a choice. Delaying can put airlines in a compromising position and potentially at a competitive disadvantage to other airlines that have already made the change.
The lack of dedicated staff time to shepherd system change is just one obstacle airlines confront in the process. Software vendors can be stretched thin by multiple projects or be good at training but not at pushing change management and user adoption across organizations. System requirements might not be clear, or the scope of the project can creep. Multiple workgroups must be coordinated so that silos don’t hinder implementation. Pilot and attendant unions may need to be consulted to help drive changes into large work groups spread across the country. Manuals need to be updated, test scripts and plans written, and staff redundancy planning built in to ensure the project stays on track even if staff members change.
A partner with relevant experience and expertise can help airlines through some or all phases of a system modernization, whether it involves choosing one comprehensive system or assembling a suite of complementary solutions. The partner can work closely with multiple workgroups within the airline and other key stakeholders.
SeaTec can help in the following ways:
- Bolster resources by helping the airline determine the staffing necessary for the project and providing subject matter experts to augment airline personnel.
- Design a change management program to help ensure successful implementation across the organization.
- Define flight ops system requirements that meet current needs and can adapt to future ones.
- Assess, design and coordinate integrations with other systems that must interact with the flight ops solution.
- Conduct validation testing to verify system options meet the airline’s needs.
- Manage the overall project and its implementation across departments and hundreds or thousands of employees.
The SeaTec team has expertise gained through years of experience with airlines and flight operations software providers. Our experience includes multiple successful system selection and implementation projects in both the flight operations and technical (maintenance) operations space. We know the pitfalls, we understand the pain points, and we help our clients navigate these complex system transformations.
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