Slot Management: How we at Lufthansa Systems support our customers in times of Covid-19 (Part 1/2)
Sep 09, 2020
Despite the Covid 19 travel restrictions in March, April and May this year, Lufthansa Systems managed to successfully cutover its Slot Management Suite for their new customer airline Neos, followed by the preparation of their first Initial Submission – both fully remotely.
In part one of this blog we would like to give you more details about the first-time ever for Lufthansa Systems to provide a remote cutover support during the implementation of their Slot Management Suite. The remote cutover support was given to Neos, an Italian leisure airline with its headquarters in Somma Lombardo and main base at Milan-Malpensa Airport. For this reason we talked with Yvonne Dimt, Product Expert NetLine/Sched, and Helge Dannenberg, Software Architect NetLine/Sched, about how they managed this big challenge.
In the second part we will ask Yvonne Dimt about how she conducted a full remote Initial Submission Service for Neos - as this service can be now provided to any airline as well.
Successful Remote cutover of Lufthansa Systems’ slot management suite
Michael Muzik: Which systems exactly were implemented at Neos?
Yvonne Dimt: Neos signed at the beginning of this year for NetLine/Sched Slot Manager, NetLine/Sched Slot Monitor and NetLine/Sched Slot Manager Short Term Mode. NetLine/Sched Slot Manager supports the complete slot handling process by managing the communication with the airport coordinators. NetLine/Sched Slot Monitor provides full control of the slot utilization and identifies the impact of schedule changes on the airline´s historic rights. Last but not least, on the day of ops, slots must be managed quickly without evaluating many alternatives. The NetLine/Sched Short Term Mode is therefore tailored to meet specific operations control requirements. Neos will benefit from these systems in the long term to improve itsslot management and slot monitoring.
Michael Muzik: What were the challenges during the implementation?
Helge Dannenberg: Usually we implement our slot management suite together with our fully integrated schedule management solution NetLine/Sched.
However, our slot applications from the business perspective also work perfectly with any existing third party flight scheduling and operations solutions. But there is no technical industry standard interface defined. So, the technical challenge was, to integrate them into Neos’ in-house systems for flight scheduling and operations control. Therefore, we had to develop a completely new XML-based interface to Neos’ current proprietary schedule management system. This interface allows Neos today to apply easily schedule or operational changes coming from their operations control system to our NetLine/Sched Slot Manager. In reverse, it allows as well, that the slot status information and telex data will be retrievable in their proprietary schedule management system.
Yvonne Dimt: This bi-directional interface makes it now possible to interface easily our powerful slot management suite to any third party schedule management and operations control system. In consequence, there will be no difference for any feature for the NetLine/Sched Slot Manager user, if 3rd provider applications are in place.
Michael Muzik: So how did the implementation go?
Helge Dannenberg: Until mid of February the project went exactly the way it was planned. We had the last on-site visit at 5. /6. February 2020. With the User Acceptance Test mid of February we successfully managed the implementation and integration of the slot management systems into Neos’ IT environment.
The only step missing was the final cutover, which Yvonne and I were supposed to conduct. Originally, we planned to migrate the new Summer Season 20 from their old system into our NetLine/Sched Slot Manager at the beginning of April. We also intended to deliver –as usual - a full on-site cutover support with me, as technical expert, and Yvonne, as business expert.
Yvonne Dimt: Well, and then COVID 19 came into all our lives. Europa was fully hit by Corona. Italy went into a full lockdown and also travel was not possible between Germany and Italy. That´s when we initially thought, we won`t be able to do the migration. Moreover, Neos was extremely busy with making their capacity adjustments at these times. We all remember how everybody was struggling. As their counterparts all over the world, Neos literally drowned in evaluating and executing cancellations, inaugurating numerous ad-hoc and positioning flights (e.g. repatriation flights, cargo delivery of masques), and switching service types (positioning flights, passenger to cargo flights). As you can imagine, the flight business was completely different for Neos during these times.
Despite this challenging schedule and slot management situation, we jointly came together with Neos to the conclusion, that we will cutover remotely, even if it was our first time to do it like this. In the end we all were successful: The actual cutover almost had the same date in April as originally planned.
Michael Muzik: How did you manage this difficult situation to bring it to a successful remote cutover?
Helge Dannenberg: First, by setting up the necessary framework. Neos had to build up an infrastructure to allow their employees to work from home. On Lufthansa Systems side working from home has already been standard for years.
Second, with good planning on both sides. We had a very clear and structured cut-over plan with to dos, timestamps and responsibilities.
Last but not least, with good communication and tight monitoring. With Microsoft Teams®, we were able to speak to each other, also in bigger group meetings. Especially screen sharing was necessary for the successful cutover. At any time it provided us a common and real-time understanding about the progress and helped us to stay permanently up-to-date.
Yvonne Dimt: To be honest, at the beginning we all had to get used to the new situation and procedures, but at the end, it went all perfect. Maybe this is one of the “good” things about Corona: You try out things and methods that you never thought they will work: We were present all the time for our new customer – even though we could not be on-site.
In the second part we will have a talk with Yvonne Dimt about how she conducted a full remote Initial Submission Service for Neos.