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The aviation industry is highly competitive. Airlines often operate on low margins and with frequent changes in demand and in the level of competition they face. Added to this, the operational and regulatory environment moves quickly as well. Providing smooth flight operations against this background is not always easy, but it is something that passengers and customers will always expect.


Prepare for the unexpected

Anyone involved with the aviation industry will appreciate the ups and downs that the sector experiences. All non-essential service industries face changes in demand and customer behaviour, and aviation is no exception. In fact, it is highly exposed to external events – with the weather, airspace restrictions, and regulatory issues all potential sources of disruption.

You only have to look at the past two to three years to see how far this can go. The pandemic has brought unprecedented changes in demand, restrictions, and permitted travel. In 2022, airspace closures in Europe and Russia have seen many airlines quickly changing flight plans. These are a reminder of the many times unexpected events have caused similar problems in the past.

Having flexibility in place within the business and within individual flight plans can help cope with such unexpected events. This involves all areas of operations – from aircraft availability and maintenance schedules to crew positioning and availability and backups in supplies such as fuel, catering, and maintenance.

Conduct thorough flight planning

A flight plan is essential for any flight. This is more than just a requirement to submit to authorities, though. It gives a chance to consider all operational and safety aspects of a flight.

A well-considered and complete flight plan will help smooth flight operations. It will ensure the flight is properly prepared for and contingencies in operation are considered. Particularly for private and charter flights, it is important to keep the plan flexible. Such flights are more likely to have late changes made to flight time, route, or destination.

Minimise flight delays

Flight delays are not just an inconvenience for operators and passengers; they are very costly. According to the FAA, these costs pre-COVID were estimated at $28 billion annually for the industry.

There are, of course, many ways to try and minimise delays. Planning for the unexpected is part of this. Just as important for airlines is to look hard and critically at flight schedules. Not scheduling sufficient time for flights (as block time from gate pushback to gate arrival) is a common cause of delay.

Looking at the turnaround process is important too. Is this being handled swiftly and efficiently, with the right level of resourcing? Aircraft gate maintenance and fuelling can cause delays as well. When looking for fuel suppliers, for example, operators should consider not just the base fuel cost but also the impact of delays and fueller location.

The balance between outsourcing and internal services

Ensuring the right level of resourcing is essential in operating an aviation business smoothly. Airlines and other operators need sufficient resourcing in many areas in order to operate smoothly. We have seen this demonstrated all too well in 2022 in many regions. As travel has recovered post-COVID, many operators have found themselves with staff shortages in some areas, leading to delays and cancellations across networks.

Airlines have long outsourced parts of their business to help with costs, staffing, and service provision. Airlines and operators need access to many specialised services, with many similarities between companies. Outsourcing allows operators access to specialised services, including in the areas of ground services, flight planning, and flight operations. This guarantees availability in expected and unexpected areas, without having to have all services resourced internally and on the payroll.

The use of outsourcing aviation support has changed over the years and between types of operators. Many low-cost airlines, for example, have built their business model around outsourcing, using external services in any area they can. The events of the last two years have certainly highlighted the huge variations seen in the industry and the challenges of internal resourcing.

Using outsourcing to handle the complexities of global travel

Outsourcing is valuable for all airlines and operators, large and small, for many different reasons. However, for those operating internationally, there are significant advantages in access to specialised flight planning and support services.
Staying up to date with requirements and regulations in multiple countries can be complicated. Permits and flight permission vary significantly. As does the availability and price of flight support services, fuel, and even maintenance.

This is made even more complicated when there are changes to established routes and airspace use – such as we are seeing in 2022 in Europe and Russia (but have also experienced many times before). Outsourcing can give operators around the clock access to such services in any location – a major consideration for smooth global flight operations.

Final Thoughts

There are many things an airline or operator can do to help smooth operations. Proper flight planning, internal resourcing, and ensuring access to key services as needed are vital. So too is preparing for the unexpected. Outsourcing can help with this, offering services in key areas that may not be resourced internally. The past few years have highlighted how changeable the aviation industry can be and how important flexibility is likely to be going forward.

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