Customer experience is largely governed by the crew that has direct interactions with the travellers. Therefore, managing crew operations is a critical component to any travel provider’s service efficiency and delivery, be it airlines, railways or cruises. Among these, stringent regulations and requirements make airline crew management one of the most complex functions in the Travel industry.
Notably, it is one of the key cost drivers after fuel; so getting crew operations right can be a competitive advantage, affecting brand, bottom line and controlling costs. As air travel gets competitive, the importance of reducing crew expenses is more essential than ever before as the cost of crew runs in millions. Therefore, even a percentage shift in costs can amount to big savings.
With customer service becoming a strategic differentiator, crew plays a vital role as the face of the brand. It’s imperative that they bring their best A-game service to travel. In this, crew satisfaction factors in largely in the kind of service they provide. A tired, unpaid crew is likely to bring negativity to their work. Therefore providers need to make sure that the processes are efficiently managed, payments are timely and schedule feels personalized. Ideally, there are 4 key aspects to crew management which need to be governed:
- Enhancing Crew Satisfaction
- Streamlining Processes
- Optimizing Resource Utilization
- Reducing Crew Expenditure
Furthermore, crew management is affected by industry changes such as irregular operations, new geographies, technologies like airline mobility solutions and automation of operations. To keep up and manage crews efficiently, airlines have to strategize internally or plan alternative approach which offers expertise and advanced technology with cost-benefits, from 3rd party providers like IGT.
Crew Management falls broadly under two procedures: planning and recovery. Planning involves managing flight & crew scheduling, fleet assignment and aircraft routing. Recovery includes planning for irregular operations and challenges such as crew recovery.
Crew Management Challenges: Subjected to regulations, contractual requirements and restrictions, airline crew scheduling needs to be integrated and transparent among the key stakeholders. Three key challenges are:
- Airline Regulations
- Resource Utilization
- Process streamlining across multiple geos
Airline Regulations: Airlines need to take into consideration the multiple regulations when managing crew scheduling, such as governing bodies like FAA, labor unions and internal policies. A well-prepared schedule enables approved duty hours, while managing pairing restrictions and monthly schedules.
Crew Utilization: There are different norms such as the maximum number of flying hours, the minimum and maximum number of working days, the minimum number of days off and so forth. When planning crew schedule these points along with crew preferences are important. So optimizing a crew’s billable hours to the fullest under contractual guidelines is a crucial function. Any miss or errosr can lead to an underutilized crew, or an over-burdened crew.
Multiple Geos: A well-organized crew management process should seamlessly work in multi-geo environments and contractual requirements, work efficiencies and payments (transport, hotel stay etc.). Keeping in mind crew hours, training times and flight types across the multiple locations only further complicates and makes handling more time-consuming. In case of cancellations or unplanned issues, management will have to make decisions on the uptick to close the gap.
3rd party Crew Management Services: An efficient crew management requires domain-specific knowledge, crew-centric processes and multi-geo capabilities. If we look back, since the 90s the airlines have been working with mathematical models to calculate and implement the best possible schedules. And this has only gotten more complex with the growth of data tools and automation processes that are now in the market.
Handling this needs dedicated effort and manpower which is why many airlines turn to leading travel technology experts such as IGT, to manage and upkeep the process.
IGT Crew Management Helpdesk services are designed to support all crew operations, schedules, costs and planning infrastructure for Airlines. IGT’s scope of services include dynamically managing multi-geo administration, FAA regulatory compliances and enable optimized schedule allocation, for better efficiency and reduced operational costs.
A crew that is well-managed will perform better to improve the brand value and bring both revenue and cost benefits. For every well utilized resource, there will be no lost millions or idle crew across fleets or routes.