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How Do Airlines Co-ordinate Aircraft Movements?

Mon May 03, 2004 11:46 am

I would like someone who works for an airline to tell me a bit about the complicated task of co-ordinating aircraft movements throughout the airline network. Sorry if it seems like a silly question, but how is it actually done? Are the planned dispatches fed through a computed simulator first? And what happens when there's a problem like a plane out of service, etc. Do most carriers have back up planes on standby or is it just luck of the draw as to which aircraft is offline at the time? I suppose my question is more directed at the US carriers with such enormous fleets of several hundred planes? How do they keep track of them. With smaller airlines, like Air NZ for example, you could just do it in a boardroom with a blackboard, but for UA or AA, for example, it boggles the mind as to how every flight is co-ordinated.
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RE: How Do Airlines Co-ordinate Aircraft Movements?

Mon May 03, 2004 11:50 am

I'd love to know how WN does it. For the Big Six, they have hubs through which they can coordinate aircraft usage (CO has it especially easy, having only 4 or 5 flights that don't go to or from EWR, IAH, or CLE). WN has flights all over the place with all sorts of point-to-point service. Does anyone from WN care to fill us in on how you manage your aircraft?
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RE: How Do Airlines Co-ordinate Aircraft Movements?

Mon May 03, 2004 12:04 pm

Most airlines have something called Systems Operations Control or something like that SOC for short.
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RE: How Do Airlines Co-ordinate Aircraft Movements?

Mon May 03, 2004 2:43 pm

Tail numbers are assigned anywhere from a few days to a few weeks in advance - depending on the airline's proceedures. Any disruption in that will result in a specific a/c getting swapped out by another one. A good situation is to do an even swap.

For example, I was on the last UA flight from SJC to DEN last month. We had mx problems in SJC. There was one more inbound to SJC that was supposed to stay all night and be the first flight out in the morning. When it arrived, they sent THAT a/c back to DEN with us on it and kept OURS there as the overnight one so they could work on it. That was convenient since it was available and was the same size/type. A lot of times that isn't the case. If there hadn't been another inbound that night, things would have been a lot different.

You are correct in pointing out that hub operations have a lot more flexibility - especially at the hub. Feeders with low frequency are kind of dicey.
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RE: How Do Airlines Co-ordinate Aircraft Movements?

Mon May 03, 2004 4:46 pm

operations research


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