How Do Airlines Decide How To Schedule Their Aircraft?

Flight planning includes many carefully considered processes to ensure that passengers are transported in the most efficient manner. Fuel, safety, weather, timing, work, and location all affect scheduling. However, another essential aspect of the procedure is the plane.

Airlines at busy airports have to make sure their schedule is in order. Photo; Getty Images

Preparation is the key

Generally, all services need to submit a flight plan prior to departure with the associated officials. It is usually formed by the carrier’s flight planner and shared with authorities and crew members.

Several aspects that are taken into consideration when planning revolve around the aircraft. In the first place, the aircraft must be able to take off and land at the tarmac. While this factor may not be a major problem at most commercial international airports, there are many airports and airports that do not have sufficient ground resources to meet the needs of certain vehicles.

It’s not just about landing the A380 on a small runway. Airlines operating in certain remote areas with difficult conditions have to ensure that the most suitable aircraft are scheduled for flights to certain airports. For example, companies like Alaska Airlines, which operate regionally and internationally, have to ensure that their mix of turboprops and jets is deployed to the right destinations.

These basic considerations are prevalent across the board. The airline must ensure that it uses the appropriate aircraft on long-haul flights. If a twin-jet aircraft were to cross oceans, would it meet the ETOPS requirements for the mission?

A Boeing 737-800 of Alaska Airlines flies on its way
Airlines with a variety of aircraft often find themselves in a better position to adapt their schedules in response to fluctuating demand. Photo: Getty Images

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Always have to adapt

However, trip planning is a flexible sector that sees planners having to change their approach due to sensitive situations. The point has been greatly highlighted by the global health crisis, with airlines placing planes on routes they would not normally be.

During the pandemic, we have seen many airlines install their giant aircraft such as the Airbus A380, instead deploying more efficient aircraft while passenger activity is going through a downturn. Modern jet aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner are much more efficient than quadruplets. So, if the behemoth’s cabin can’t be filled, the airline can save fuel, and therefore money, by using a smaller twin-jet aircraft.

Wide bodies are also sometimes replaced by narrow-bodied models, even in non-epidemic periods. This process is often seen when it comes to seasonal planning.

For example, Tap Air Portugal praises its Airbus A321LR because it allows the carrier to work with smaller planes when there isn’t a lot of traffic during lulls. Demand may be lower during the winter months, but there is still a market for the service. So, rather than stopping the course altogether, Portugal’s national carrier can balance payload factors with long-range single-aisle jets atop an Airbus A330 across the Atlantic.

Wide objects such as the Airbus A350 were seen on additional short-haul routes via single-aisle units, including Madrid and London, due to strong overall demand. In addition, the A380 was put into more continental services as airlines reintroduced the behemoth after the return of passenger activity.

Qatar Airways Jetty Airbus A350
Airlines serving transit passengers are required to ensure that they have suitable aircraft scheduled to carry those connecting them from other destinations. Photo: Getty Images.

keep the ball

In the end, there are several elements to consider when planning flights. Regardless, just as with other departments in aviation, the aircraft is the primary focus where most of the other components are connected.

“Airlines have route planning specialists to ensure that aircraft of the right size are used for the route, that any maintenance considerations are taken into account, and that aircraft arrive at the appropriate location for inspections and service at appropriate intervals. It is an art of keeping the schedule running. Scheduling specialists learn the job After years of experience in aviation they are vital to facilitate operations.” – Captain John Cox via USA Today.

These processes are not always smooth. Unexpected delays occur regularly due to personnel, equipment, weather and political factors. However, trip planners try to limit the influence of these factors from the start.

What are your thoughts on how airlines schedule their planes? What do you think of the overall journey planning process across the industry? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

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