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We recently launched our global paper, Airline scheduling: 7 exciting developments revolutionizing flight scheduling, describing seven new interesting developments that will transform the world of airline scheduling. Working together with our partners from Optym, we realized that recent changes in technology, and our collective ability to capitalize on them, meant that airlines could quickly build profitable and reliable schedules easier than ever before. These seven developments amount to a breakthrough that should excite everyone involved in airline scheduling. And although the breakthrough benefits airlines of all sizes, business models and regions, I’m interested in focusing specifically on what it means for airlines in the Americas region.
While I’ve lived in many countries over the years, I’m American by birth, which shapes my cultural outlook. I’m very proud to have worked at two of the leading airlines in the region, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. And while I travel frequently as part of my job, I consider the USA “home.” So, from this perspective I’d like to discuss how these new developments in airline scheduling apply to airlines in my home region.
The opportunities of scale
In the Americas region, there are many large airlines that are the result of mergers or acquisitions. In North America, American Airlines and US Airways, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines, Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways – and most recently, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America – have all merged to create much larger airlines. In Latin America, Avianca and Grupo TACA as well as LAN Airlines and TAM have also consolidated. Much of the capacity in the Americas is now being flown by large entities that operate multiple hubs and even represent different countries.
As opposed to an airline that has only one route, one equipment type, and one airport slot determining available departure times, the new structure and sheer scale of these airlines presents lots of opportunities for increased scheduling choices and improved schedule optimization. Their multiple hubs give them the ability to coordinate service across many different markets and explore new hub structures. And their large fleet of aircraft gives them a lot of flexibility in assigning just the right aircraft type to each flight. While other large entities such as the Lufthansa Group and Air France-KLM have terrific scale as well, it’s worth noting that the Americas differ from other regions due to the amount of capacity flown.
The opportunities of flexibility and data
Relatively speaking, airlines in the Americas generally have more flexibility in scheduling their flights due to their less restrictive slot, gate, curfew, and other operating constraints. Of course, there is regulation in every country in this region, and every airline operates under limited resource constraints. However, there is much more freedom to overcome these constraints and generate more scheduling choices in the Americas than compared to, say, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
The old adage of “Garbage In, Garbage Out” certainly applies when trying to optimize flight schedules based on incomplete, inaccurate, or untimely data. Compared to other regions, the wealth of data in the Americas helps airlines benefit more from improved scheduling technologies. For example, The US DOT coupon sample provides airlines with a lot of insight on traffic flows and competitive market shares that’s simply not available anywhere else in the world. With this data source, U.S. airlines get more benefit out of new scheduling technologies than they otherwise would.
As a result of the scale, flexibility and rich data available in the Americas, it’s an exciting time to talk to airlines in this region about better ways they can build better schedules!