How can you build up a robust schedule in Flight Scheduling? (Part 3 of 3)

How do you balance punctuality vs. productivity? Please read the third and final part of the joint blog of my three colleagues and I, where we share five approaches towards minimizing propagated delays and increasing aircraft utilization by robust scheduling.

Dear Blog Readers,


Welcome back to our third joint blog about how to build up a robust schedule in Flight Scheduling.

After having discussed this important topic more from a Flight Scheduling in-side perspective only by elaborating the effects of:

  1. Creating rotational buffers (see blog part 1)
  2. Implementing maintenance buffers (see blog part 1)
  3. Eliminating unnecessary rotational buffers (see blog part 2) 

we now woukld like to go one step beyond and take a cross-departmental look: How can a better interplay between the Crew Management and Flight Scheduling department help to achieve a more robust flight schedule?

4. Consider Crews Pairings while creating the flight schedule.

Usually the scheduling department starts to create the flight schedule using a typical week and rolling out to the season - two years before it has to be published - one year ahead and is then handed over to the Crew Management department. Very often Flight Scheduler and Crew Planner do not exchange during the initial flight scheduling phase. So the Flight Scheduler doesn´t have much knowledge, where and how the respective crew pairings are planned.

In fact communication between both departments could help to improve for a more robust flight schedule. Therefore I recommend Flight Schedule and Crew Management IT tools that allow and integrated exchange of information and an optimization of the aircraft rotations, that also consider the respective crew rotations, for instance to avoid crew illegalities when considering an aircraft change within a rotation.

And you can even do better: You can use the crew pairing optimization as well as the aircraft schedule and rotation optimization together to let the aircraft fly sequences of legs that can be covered by most efficient and robust crew duties. In short haul operation this can easily save about a third of the aircraft changes for the crews while additionally increasing the crew efficiency by one or two percent!

Also in manual operation utilizing such an information exchange a flight scheduler should be able to see the aircraft rotations and the crew pairings on top of each other. This helps him for instance to better evaluate, if a crew becomes illegal, in case he wants to shift an aircraft rotation backwards with this crew on it.

The benefit of this integration is clear: By not only following the classical “crew follows aircraft” but also the additional “aircraft follows crew”-approach, an airline would not only have more robust aircraft, but also more robust and efficient crew rotations. This reduces crew costs in planning stage and at the same time avoids expensive calls of standby crews

5. Intensify Communications between Flight Scheduling and Crew Management during Rostering Phase.

One month prior to departure, the Rostering should ideally be finished for the next month, even Schedulers can work on the schedule up to three days before departure before the handover to Operations Control happens. During this time, Sched Users are still working and doing Schedule Changes, which could interfere the Crew Pairing and therefore the Crew Rosters. A Scheduler should have the possibility to check the impact of a schedule change to Crew Rosters before publishing the change. This would minimize the additional work for a Crew user and would save Crew Costs.

Hopefully you enjoyed our blog sequence “How can you build up a robust schedule in Flight Scheduling?” We look forward to hearing your feedback or giving us input for a new topic, that you would like us to blog about.



Michael, Judith, Ensuch & Sascha


This blog sequence is a joint publication of:


For the other two blogs related to this topic please refer to the following pages:


Dominik Runge's picture


thank you for this very informational blog. I was just about to comprehend the structure behind airline scheduling. I have read some specific books about the scheduling process and some scientific reports, compared flight schedules of alliance partners and mainly competitive airlines. A scheduling process requires enormous methodological knowledgement, experiences and foresight. The basis is a vast data collection. Really interesting stuff. :-)

I wished to find / learn more about the background how you get a basic schedule installed (Marketing Data, Ressource Data, the determination of which routes with which frequency will be served) to slowly get into the robust scheduling process. Even though just five important approaches are mentioned, there is a sixth approach missing. I know other blogs describe the airline cooperation process but I guess it is as well an important and not neglectable point in the scheduling process and its robustness. If you decribe the buffers whether to be applied or eliminated within the block times and / or ground times another important factor is the minimum connection time mainly in HUBs such as FRA or MUC for DLH. The coordination respectively / particularly the Yield Management yells for utilization and therefore the rate of use compared to the ground time which just bind money and ressources. Necessarily not only a de- or increase of ground time caused by the described factors has to be considered but rather the connection to other flights and also flights of alliance partners at ones HUB or the own HUB.

I hope I could enrich the discussion about flight schedule robustness roughly. I am actually not a specialist but very much interested in the airline industry.

Hope for more information to expand my knowledge.

Greetings from Stadtallendorf
Dominik Runge

Michael Muzik's picture

Dear Dominik,

thank you for your feedback and for suggesting your sixth approach. Hopefully we could give you some interesting insights for your scheduling studies. :-)

Kind Regards

Michael Muzik (on behalf of all blog authors)