Many major airports around the world are operating at or well beyond their design capacity at peak periods of each day. With the robust projections in air travel demand, this constraint is affecting on-time performance and growth for airlines as well as customer satisfaction with airport services such as check-in, security, immigration, baggage handling, etc. For the regional area, the economic impact can be significant as passenger growth flattens out and travelers choose other connecting hubs or destinations. Even cargo carriers are shifting to less congested airports. This causes a real loss for the regional economy.

In response, airlines have been “up-gauging” their aircraft to accommodate passenger demand at capacity constrained airports. A consequence has been that many feeder flights on smaller aircraft are lost as airlines focus on heavier point-to-point routes with wide-body aircraft. For passengers, this often means higher ticket prices and having to drive to a major airport instead of using a local connecting flight. For airports, the growing passenger capacity drives the need for larger check-in, security, lounge, gate, and baggage handling areas to meet peak demands.
Facilities planners need a long-term view of the schedules and plans of all the airlines using their airport to have a business case for building new capacity. These scenarios enable the airport and local governments to arrange the financing for the multi-year construction process. However, in the short-term, there is a need to have analytic tools to understand all the choke points so that the current facilities can be reconfigured and optimized for utilization.

As a quick fix, arrival and departure slots have become a major focus for airlines and airports, with the aim to manage access and utilization. Over 200 airports are now Level 3 slot-controlled, which means they have reached their runway or parking capacity. The increasing competition for limited access affects slot allocation on a daily basis and has led to some high-priced slot trading deals between airlines. For airports, the optimization of the available slots needs to be tightly managed for fairness to all carriers and closely monitored to assure compliance by airlines. Having the data to know whether the allocated slots match the flight times being sold by airlines is part of the challenge, followed by the actual utilization level within the 80:20 rule for flights flown. Warnings and penalties are becoming more of a factor in the schedule planning and operations of airlines to assure that their high value slots are not lost or that they incur a major expense due to fines for delays and cancellations. Airlines need a robust monitoring and planning capability to avoid these problems.

Integrated Scheduling and Slot Management

The growing need for quickly and easily managing flight schedules and slots in an integrated workflow was a key driver in the design of Zulu’s SaaS solution for airlines and airports. The analytics engine enables multiple schedules to be analyzed, compared and evaluated, including machine learning capabilities to handle many types of data and rules. The cloud architecture makes it highly scalable, secure and affordable for small to large teams.

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