Crew Control

The Crewing function (including various titles/roles such as current day control, rostering, resourcing, planning, and support) deals with managing the day-to-day flying commitments of the airline’s crews. There are two separate functional areas within the IOC (i.e., Flight, Technical or Pilot Crewing, and Flight Attendant or Cabin Attendant Crewing). The main purpose for including representatives from both Crewing areas in the IOC is to provide timely and appropriate decisions concerning crew availability and deployment in the face of disruptions. To do this, they need detailed knowledge and expertise to interpret and apply rules according to the international and State regulations, specific crew industrial agreements and the airline’s FRMS in place at any time. These agreements differ for Flight Crews and Flight Attendants, are complex and far reaching, and so important that misinterpretation may result in illegal assignments or in costly remedies for the airline. Thus, a sound knowledge of regulations, crewing contracts or other agreements between the airline and crews is needed, as is a knowledge of policies concerning safety and well-being of crews. The maintaining of extensive and concise records (e.g., duty hours, rest breaks, maximum duty over various time-frames) is a regulatory and industrial necessity, so attention to detail and persistence in attaining high-level outcomes are vital in the role. Working in the IOC’s pressured environment naturally calls for proven analytical and problem-solving skills, so individuals responsible for Crewing functions need to be highly motivated and dedicated to achieving targets. Besides the current day control, additional crew areas such as those responsible for formulating pairings and rosters and for providing supporting roles are normally located away from the central decision makers.

Commercial and Customer Journey Management

The focus of the Commercial function is of course customers. But, capacity adjustments may be required prior to the day of operation (within the IOC window of, say, 2-7 days), perhaps as a result of a previous disruptive situation, or some special request for additional capacity (e.g., sudden increase of demand on a route). So, capacity adjustments may be occurring right up to the operating day, as the schedule is fine-tuned to maximise opportunities. Of course, a large part of the role entails disruption management and the commercial activities necessary to protect customers.

The CJM role has become of increasing importance as noted several times earlier. The inclusion of this key role in the IOC is to ensure operational decision making takes into account any commercial factors affecting the process, such that the impact on customers is realised and minimised. It is the commercial ‘voice’, or customer advocacy within the IOC, and its influence contributes to identifying appropriate avenues of disruption management, such as, for instance, nominating which flights should, or should not, be targeted for delay or cancellation. Key areas of focus include contributions to IOC decision making in terms of proposing least impact flights to disrupt or development of recovery plans for disrupted passengers, identification of VIP and CIP customers and protection thereof in the event of journey disruption.

Increasingly the function plays an important role in pre-empting or minimising disruptive effects to customers, but when these occur, the role takes into account commercial decisions (with budgetary implications) such as the need for providing re-bookings on alternative flights (or airlines - whether allied to the original airline or not), accommodation, transport, meals and customer compensation. These decisions are the result of significant communication and liaison with the relevant parties such as airlines, airport staff, reservations, hotels and so forth. With most airlines having sophisticated loyalty programs, the need for recognition and appropriate treatment of high tiered customers forms part of the emphasis of the recovery process. Knowledge of Customer, Inventory and Reservations systems is, of course, critical to the role, but equally important is the skill-set for analysing situations and finding solutions in the customers’ best interests but also in a commercially responsible manner. The individuals in these roles must be extremely customer service focused and able to communicate and engage across a diverse customer base. Like other roles in the IOC, they must be passionate for their work.

ATC Flow Control/Slot Control

In many airports, the management of air traffic is subject to the use of Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM), which seeks to optimise the use of airspace in and around airports, as well as providing a system that is consistently applied and is fair to the airlines wishing to use the airport. The role of an airline Slot Controller (or in the case of the USA, perhaps a specially classified Dispatcher tasked as an АТС Coordinator, or similar titled role) is to liaise with the Air Service Provider in order to negotiate arrival and departure slots for the airline. With limited slots available, and airline disruptions occurring that alter departure and arrival timings, part of the role of Slot Controller is also liaising with other users of the system (other airlines) with a view to swapping slots between them, to suit all parties. With ever increasing traffic volumes and congestion problems at many airports, the role plays a fundamental part in the IOC. But when disruptions deteriorate considerably, the Slot Controller becomes a key person, as much of the recovery process may hinge upon successfully achieving accessible slot times.

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