Flight delays are a continuing issue that isn’t likely to end anytime soon. A delayed flight affects everybody from passengers to governments. That’s why everybody goes around looking for solutions. Now, amidst all the solution hunting, there is always one entity that is constantly blamed for all flight delays – the ATC. Unfortunately, the ATC should be the last one to be blamed because delays simply don’t come under their purview. However, the ATC always ends up being the scapegoat and sadly, they rarely challenge it.
So, who or what is responsible for flight delays? Well, let’s begin by realizing the fact that an airline delay is the sole responsibility of the airline. The only thing that the ATC does is it separates aircrafts and oversees safety related matters. The ATC is not tasked with managing or sequencing aircrafts in and out of airports.
That’s a task better managed by the airline itself. However, the ATC is forced to do it because airlines fail to do so.
A Case of Misunderstanding
This abdication of responsibilities from airlines has led shareholders and passengers to believe that the ATC is responsible for everything. Though the FAA, along with airline companies, keeps funneling in billions to fix respective flight schedules, they have not been able to hide the error of their ways. The FAA uses Time-Based Flow Management, which is further facilitated by the Airline Business-Based Flow Management solution (BBFM). This isn’t exactly a new solution, but, what’s worse is that it is far from effective. Delta Air Lines, which separated from Airlines for America, a Washington based trade group representing major carriers, currently possess the best on-time record. However, Delta states that the current system followed by the FAA is “far from broken”. The system is being used for every airline that operates within it. But, Delta has been able to manage because it invests in people, operations and technology on a consistent basis.
The solution, according to R. Michael Baiada, an ex USAF pilot, former airline pilot, and current president of the ATH Group, lies in operational excellence. Operational excellence demands that airlines plan their “day of” operations according to the system, rather than the way they do now, which is diffused. They must also learn to manage aspects such as catering, crews, and ramp service etc. on a real time basis, but, with a high level of coordination. To put it simply, they must make sure everything is at the right place and at the right time. They must also stop relying on outdated silo based processes and use a system focused approach that leverages strengths such as big data. They must shift to a command and control system that goes from 0 to 100% in 30 hours.
With the technology available today, an airline can reconfigure its schedule in real time. For example, an aircraft can bypass an airport that has been affected by poor weather and help passengers reach their destination on time without having to rely completely on ATC.
Sadly, airlines are being complacent about such abilities and require some sort of push to take up the challenge. One major change required is in the leadership arena. New leadership must be implemented; one that has a vision for the concerned airline. The second big change must occur in the area of processes.