How to optimize your slot management on the day of ops!

The efficient management of airport slots is very challenging nowadays. Especially in these bumpy times, airlines face many ad-hoc schedule changes resulting in high amounts of slot change messages on the day of ops. As a consequence, this leads to great efforts for slot coordinator communication requiring efficient IT solutions. This is where the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode comes in!

The efficient management of airport slots is very challenging nowadays – even in the current COVID-19 ramp-up phase. Especially in these bumpy times, airlines face many ad-hoc schedule changes resulting in high amounts of slot change messages. Please bear one thing in mind: Coordinators still require a formal slot cancellation request and also do need new slot requests for now booming cargo flights as well as during ramping up the post-crisis schedule. As a consequence, this leads to great efforts for slot coordinator communication requiring fast and efficient IT solutions.  

Even if many airlines have powerful and highly automated slot management and slot monitoring applications, such as the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager and NetLine/Sched Slot Monitor, in place, many of them still face a gap in the slot communication especially on the day of ops. This gap is being bridged by the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode.

Felix Windisch, Product Delivery Manager NetLine/Sched and Claus Witte, Senior Product Delivery Manager NetLine/Sched, speak about the value of the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode, for the slot management[1] and operations control departments within airlines.

 

Michael Muzik: How does it come, that we often face a gap in slot management for slot changes on the day of ops?

Claus Witte: Two factors play a role: Time and organizational responsibility.

Time: Seasonal slot management and slot management on the day of ops work within different time horizons and urgencies: Seasonal slot management is done usually in the run-up. The typical use case behind sounds like this: After checking the best possible alternatives, I take care that I get the slot X for the time Y at airport Z in one week. Most important to note, I usually have some time to optimize before sending a slot request.
Whereas a typical use case for the slot management on the day of ops would be: Today, I have short-notice cancellation, ad-hoc flight, diversion or flight delay. I need to react immediately by requesting a slot change at the coordinator. Bottom line: Slot changes on the day ops need to be communicated right away.  

Organizational responsibility: Different departments within the airline execute operations control and slot management. Slot managers usually mainly take care of seasonal slot management, as this is where the focus of non-automatable work lies, and can work during ordinary business hours. Technically speaking the slot management department also has a stake in day of ops slot management. However, operations control, which is usually fully responsible for all schedule activities on the day of ops, has somehow no access to means when it comes to the fast execution of slot communication exactly in this period or, the worst case, slot requests have to be sent when the slot managers are out of office. Conclusion here: A necessary task cannot be executed in the respective department. 

 

Michael Muzik: Which kind of problems does this gap create?

Felix Windisch: As slots have become increasingly a high value for airlines, they consequently need to monitor slots over the whole slot management cycle to prevent slot losses. This requires maintaining a so-called slot set holding all currently held or requested slots combined with their “history”. This holistic tracking of all slot relevant schedule changes coming from schedule management and operations control and knowing a slot baseline from the beginning of the season enables Slot Monitoring. It’s absolutely crucial to receive this timely update about which slots were used and which not (= canceled).

Because of the previously described reasons for the gap in handling slot changes on the day of ops, we experienced, that airlines sometimes have developed not always efficient routines for handling exactly this type of slot changes: This might be time-consuming calls to the schedule / slot manager to ask for the execution slot adjustments. Often this is even infeasible outside of ordinary business hours. In other workarounds, the ops controller sends free-text telex emails for slot change requests (CRs) to the airport coordinator to communicate slot changes on the day of ops. At the end of the shift he[2] has to hand over his changes to the slot manager by summarizing all free-text messages in one email, which the slot manager in turn had to manually maintain 1:1 in his slot set.

You can imagine that phone calls, free-text telexes, as well as manual hand-over and maintenance activities of the important slot information, can create inconsistencies and errors in a slot set and in consequence the monitoring, not speaking about the cumbersome efforts for all parties.

In summary: This gap increases the interdepartmental information exchange efforts for all involved stakeholders and is a potential source of errors for the communication with the airport coordinators, which might lead - worst case - to the loss of historic slots. Because we must not forget: The ops controller is the last one in the row, who can still prioritize, which flight to cancel and can take 80/20 rule considerations into account.

All the above Slot Monitoring related might be slightly released due to the numerous waiver policies, but: Bear in mind, that airlines still must send telexes and that increase schedule volatility goes in line with an increased number of telexes.

 

Michael Muzik: How can the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode bridge this gap?

Claus Witte: In the operations control period slot management activities typically are just a necessity, which has to be done quickly without evaluating many alternatives. Therefore, a quick and easy way to generate and send SSIM chapter 6 slot telex messages is required. NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode has been tailored to meet specific operations control requirements. It can be started directly from our Lufthansa Systems or even any 3rd party Operations Control Solution and streamlines the slot management process on the day of ops optimized for operational purposes.

 

Michael Muzik: Could you please specify “operational purposes”?

Felix Windisch: A slot management optimized for operational purposes covers different aspects:

First, the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode enables the operations controller to contribute efficiently to the slot management process without having to touch the whole slot set in a complex slot management application. It allows to process directly and self-dependent slot communication for exactly the period he is responsible for: the ops master period, which can also be longer than one day. Let me give you an example on how easy it is: If the ops controller creates a new flight, the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode supports the operations controller in the evaluation of whether a slot change request is necessary or not. It will also allow the automated creation and sending of telexes in the IATA compliant format. The only remaining task is checking the status of the coordinator response by looking at a simple traffic light system indicating clearance or further actions, e.g. the acceptance of offers. The ops controller just implicitly profits from all telex rules and other slot business logic, which often differs by coordinator and which is maintained by the slot manager.

Second, in operations control slot management activities are more perceived as accompanying tasks than a core duty. In addition, changes on the day of ops are usually not part of “tactical slot evaluations”. They simply are executed. NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode enables the ops controller to communicate the slot changes to the airport coordinator with least possible effort.

Last but not least: The NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode also allows, that ops controllers who never have been trained to write telexes (which is more cryptic than it might sound) can handle slot requests. This feature allows a simple slot handling that doesn´t require deep slot management knowledge.

 

Michael Muzik: What benefits does the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode provide specifically for the slot manager?   

Claus Witte: The slot manager can be sure about two things: An operations controller will never be able to “destroy” his complex slot set, because he simply does not have access to it. The ops controller will only be capable to cancel single slots on the specific day, but never to cancel “accidentally” all slots for a flight in the entire season (which usually are displayed condensed in a visualized slot set and first would have to be split when writing the telex). Avoiding free-text telexes and following all the telex rules and business logic also increases telex content and format consistency and avoids extra trouble with coordinators.

Last but not least, he can feel certain, that his slot set always is up to date - including all changes on the day of ops. This is very important, as the slot set is usually the base for the slot monitoring activities. This only enables real-time decision support features for the ops controller like slot loss warning and will help prevent that no slots will be lost in the future.

 

Michael Muzik: Thank you very much for these insights!

 

In case you are interested in more information about the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode, please contact me here.

 

[1] In the following we will assume that the slot management and schedule management is done by two different units / persons, knowing within many airlines the schedule manager is as well responsible for the slot management.

[2] We will stay in the following with the male pronouns, knowing that slot, schedule and operations control manager are of both (and might be even more) sexes.