Polar Vortex + Collaboration

Sure, now that North America again suffers from extreme winter, experts arguing if it’s another “Polar Vortex”, there is some background on Business Insider. Fact is, it hit North America hard again, causing major flight disruptions, not only in the North, but also “down South”. Suddenly I experience a surge of interest in “Deicing Management”.

The major issue I am asked is how to keep the airport operational, whereas that is the wrong approach. You can’t fight Mother Nature, not even Mr. President can, no matter how god-like he believes to be. You can manage the repercussions. You can minimize the impact, optimize the handling to recover quickly from an airport closure.

This must be more seen on a collaborative approach and I just thought to come back to the typical questions once again, as they reappear these days. If you’re interested, there are quite some posts on this blog addressing disruption management or A-CDM.

No, there is no “quick panacea” for this. Any deicing manager should be able to tell you that you cannot change a running winter operation, you implement the changes outside the season, train your staff and improve the processes. Listen to them!

A common question is: “Which software tool?”

Clear as can be, there is no “software panacea” either. In North America, the closest thing in my experience is Saab-Sensis Aerobahn. In most cases of who’s asking, it simply is overkill. First step is to start to collaborate. Deicing is not an issue of the ground handler, or the airline, or the airport, but the ground handler, the airline and the airport. All together. If you don’t collaborate, the tools don’t help you. If your processes are “stand alone” and not integrated into a master process “turn around”, using a software does not help you. There are tools that work that can help you improve your processes, but most my inquiries end here. For some reason, airport (and airline) managers seem to believe (almost a religious faith) that they need software to solve their problems. It is hard to explain that they need to “think”, that it might be more reasonable to invest into a consulting, sitting together, looking at the processes, talking to the stakeholders and in a proper process start the transformation to collaborative decision making, starting potentially with deicing.

Another common question: “But this only works on large airports?”

Yes and no. The large airports are usually more bureaucratic, have developed “structures”, or more accurately “silo structures”. Where on small airports there is a natural collaboration as people have multiple functions and small hierarchies, the large airports have departments that tend to separate themselves from the larger good. Exaggerating, each department is the only valuable, the only one understanding, the hub of the(ir limited) universe. The other departments only interfere and make things difficult. That silo thinking is more common the larger the company. But also small airports have the possibility to establish a collaborative approach. They might not even need software to do that…? Software can overcome the workers reluctance to share information by doing it for them. And speeding up data exchange instead of waiting that someone shares an information. As we discussed in the LinkedIn group CDM@airport many times, A-CDM is not about technology, but about collaboration. That is people first. The technology is a tool.

Aircraft Rotations, Winter Operations and Forecasting

In the discussions, I keep emphasizing to look beyond the individual airport and think about the airlines involved. Their flights get delayed or worse, they get stuck. Bad enough at the airport, the aircraft is expected to fly to more than one city. In 2014, JetBlue had to cancel all flights for a day to “reset” the network, bring aircraft and crews where they were supposed to be (and give the crews the legally required rest). Thousands of travelers were stranded during the 2014 Polar Vortex disruptions. The same year, I discussed with Zürich about the possibility to proactively inform the airlines about the delay forecast, enabling them to cancel a flight to Zürich to avoid it getting stuck there. It lead to the hen-egg issue, if then enough airlines cancel their flights, there would be no delay…? An idea was a penalty/bonus-system, giving an airline that helps avoiding a delay situation today a priority on their departure tomorrow. The idea was disqualified implying the airlines’ inability to understand and agree on the concept…

Just some more

Food for Thought
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Delay and Disruption Management


Sharing the Bloomberg headline What Do You Want, Cheap Airfare or an On-Time Flight? Daniel (S.) today quoted from the article on LinkedIn:  “An ultra-low-cost carrier will never, ever try to be as punctual as a big legacy #airline. Being on time all or most of the time costs money.”

After an initial misunderstanding we agree: That is stupid!

Delay and disruption management are the single most important influenceable cost factors in aviation today!

Yes, we can make good aircraft deals, we use revenue management to sell out tickets as expensive as we can in the low-cost world. But operations is the single most important cost driver we can influence today. We can neglect it, like many seasoned airline and airport managers do, we can deny and ignore it. And loose money.

While doing the research at late delair for the Zurich Airport case study, focusing on the impact of a contemporary deicing management, just that improvement in (IT-supported) process saved about 20 million in one winter alone there. For Swiss (about 50% of the flights). Now working on a financial summary that thanks to the acquisition of delair by SITA never made it “to market”, I spoke with the OCC (Operations Control Center) manager of Swiss in Zurich. Who confirmed what they all knew (and know), but their management remains blissfully ignorant about: It is all about rotations in an airline. The aircraft starts somewhere in the morning and flies to different places throughout the day. And a disruption or delay anywhere en-route is prone to impact the entire rotation. Worse, a late aircraft usually accumulates more delays as ground handling is also tightly scheduled without spare manpower to cover up for such situations. Then crews fall out of schedule as they have to have their rest times. And while the airline may reduce the financial damage by calling for higher force on a snow event in the morning, on the flights down the line, I am told they tend to pay. And passenger compensation often exceeds the value of a single ticket!

In 2014 I wrote this article about Airport Operations Center (APOC), Airline Operations Control Center (OCC) and ATC’s Network Operations Center (NMOC) and how they do not communicate with each other. I asked just recently about a common airline system with decent, contemporary, f***ing basic interfaces and learned that none of my precious industry expert friends knows such. Worse, I got more feedback than I wanted about the issues all my friends in this industry can tell about; where thanks to missing such data flow, the right hand does not know what the left one is doing. In the process, trying to improve a bad situation, but working with different information, making things often enough worse.

I also heard just this week, how airline managers love the big planes (A380), a Lufthansa manager was quoted that they love the big bird, but that they don’t know if they can ever be operated long-term commercially revenue-making.  Or read a comment, how much these airline “managers” love new inflight entertainment and seats and fancy stuff. But don’t understand, why Windows-XP-machines in their OCC need replacement. It’s “fancy”, touchable, visible to see the airplane or fancy seats, but no-one sees the impact of deicing. Okay, we have a winter-delay. Who cares, we’ve calculated it into our prices forever and it’s been always like this. It can be improved? Who cares.

Source firewalkeraussies.comAnd while the airlines benefit, I hear from the airports that they do not show any interest in A-CDM and A-CDM improvements. While they cut into the flesh on most airport’s fees, while they let them starve; while most airports need to invest heavily to compensate the losses from “aircraft handling” by doing their best to increase “non-aviation revenue”, while this is daily life today, airlines demand airports to invest into those technologies and development and process improvements, but are not willing to pay. Did Swiss pay a Penny (Rappen) for the improved deicing at their home airport? Make a guess.

So while I know that seasoned managers in aviation act that stupid and short-sighted. Delay and Disruption Management is the single most important factor we can influence to save big money.

As I should have known Daniel’s opinion, i.e. from his LinkedIn article about why airlines burn money every day I keep myself referring to.

And if you need someone to discuss such projects or to manage them? Keep me in mind. And Daniel 😉

Food for Thought
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On-Time Performance and Punctuality League

Incompatible Data

Mark from OAG directed my attention this week on OAG’s Punctuality League, which they offer for free download and compiled the results in a “dashboard”, though I find that exceptionally unintuitive and more confusing than helping. FlightStats offers a similar information in tables and graphs I find far more intuitive, the On-Time Performance Awards.

Now after a quick first look, it shows already that it’s incompatible.

I just look at the first OAG graph “Top 20 Airlines by LCCs/Mainline Airlines”.

  1. Hawaiian Airlines (89.87%)
  2. Copa Airlines (88.75%)
  3. KLM (87.89%)

and compare to FlightStats, where Hawaiian neither shows in the Top 10 International Airlines nor Major Airlines (neither Mainline nor Network), but only Top 1 on Regional Airlines. KLM is 1st on International Network flights and 4th on mainline flights.

When I first encountered the FlightStats monthly statistics for airlines and airports, I’ve contacted them (with no reply) if I may add that as an indicator to our airport data. As I consider that valuable information for aviation network planners.

But as I stumble immediately over differences, it raises question. Such, it might be a good idea if OAG and FlightStats talk to each other to make sure they use the same data, and logic before they dig into detail. Or that they explain how they value the data and interpret it. As is, there are unexplained differences. Sorry, now I distrust both sources…?

Indicator. Indicator?

It can only be an indicator, as both sources fail to relate the one to the other. My first question would be to correlate the on-time performance to the hub airlines. Because it is utterly unfair to blame an airport, if their major hub airline is notoriously late.

Then one shall also keep the size of an airport and it’s congestions in mind, i.e. British Airways suffering from congestions in London-Heathrow or Thai Airways in Bangkok. Who is cause? Who is victim?

Yes, for CheckIn.com we emphasize that all that data can only be indicators. To be interpreted by an experienced network planner. Because a single new flight makes a major impact on a new or small airport, but has little statistical relevance on a major hub. Saying that, isochrones are in itself valuable statistical data and we put them into our analyses for a reason. As they are a necessity in comparison with the catchment area analysis to interpret the possible impact for a route. In forecasting, you work with indicators, you have no facts.

Big Data – Big Trouble

At the same time you work with big data, so the more data you work with, the more vital it is to get them from a sound source and have them integrated into a common system. Whereas most established data providers, be it OAG, Flight Stats, SITA, etc. have not yet  addressed that for a “good reason”. But as an industry, it is vital we add this and integration is very high on our back log at CheckIn.com of what we where we want to go!

For the time being, national statistics differ from Eurostats, differ from aviation industry statistics, differ from common sources. These differences in data you get from FlightStats and OAG just being an example that this is also an issue in aviation. Who’s right? I even have examples where the numbers figure within an airport’s own website for a given year. In order to improve, we got to tear down the walls! And yes, that’s part of what I will talk about at coming Passenger Terminal Conference & Expo in March. Will you be there? Please let us meet!

Rotational Impact

So. Why do I give these on-time-performance, no those delay statistics so much thought? Aside the cost of delays summing up to millions, they are not just a nuisance, but a problem. Because when I did that additional case study on cost savings, based on the Zurich Airport’s deicing I did for SAE G12 and WinterOps.ca, I learned an important fact from Swiss (the airline). Whereas the passengers impacted by the immediate flight understand the problem and accept higher force, the aircraft is not operating a single flight, but an entire rotation (a chain of flights) during the day/week. Any major delay has a rippling effect in the network. And if you have a snow-caused delay in the morning in Zurich, your passengers on the evening flight from the Mediterranean summer vacation will not understand and file for compensation. And the airline usually pays!

And for network planning, it is vital to know if you have to build in (expensive) buffers into your schedule, to cover up for the potential delays. That means your aircraft and especially crews are not airborne as much as they could be, such causing further loss of revenue. There is a very good reason airlines increasingly add clauses in the handling contracts with the airports punishing for creating delays and rewarding for reducing such. Being said to be an expert in winter ops planning, it’s bad enough about technical or natural (weather) delays. But yes, delays are also caused by aviation management, be it handling agent, airline operations or air traffic control.

A Summary…

So what now. I think the availability of delay statistics is compelling, useful and needed. But take them with care, as you take all statistics. Try to understand how they are computed, the logic behind and ask your provider accordingly. Yes, that includes our own. That’s why we publish the CheckIn.com methodology. Only if you understand it, you can yourself interpret it. Trust it.

We got to understand in our industry the value of data and common data structures. A delay is a delay? Nonsense. As I mentioned back three years ago in the article about A-CDM.

And I distrust any “closed source” company that does not provide me with their methodology on their analyses. Like many airports do. On the other side, at CheckIn.com, the value is not really the methodology (which is sound), it’s the work that is behind it, the compilation of data from different sources, the constant improvements we give that. Only given sound data, we can provide quality analyses. Given the quality data, anyone can come up with more or less professional analyses. Even to come up with the calculations we do to calculate an airport’s impact on a traveler’s likeliness to choose the one or other airport can be replicated. Though no, we don’t explain in detail how we do it, but the general concept. The hard work we spend every day to merge data from different sources, to cover for mistakes and other short-comings – that makes our work so hard to copy… And is a main part of our USP (Unique Selling Proposition), what makes us “unique”.

Food For Thought
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Not Invented Here

Image courtesy Oxford Creativity

This week, I happened to stumble across this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_invented_here

Then I stumbled across this image.

It reminded me very much of my experience with A-CDM, where most larger airports’ IT rejects external solutions in order to build a custom-made solution. After several years of work, we have several tires (or tiers?) of different size, incompatible to build upon.

It’s the same argument I hear from many airports and airlines when talking to them about CheckIn.com.

It will take time (and interest) until they understand that it’s not just another “same”, but something fundamentally new.

Linus Torwalds, inventor if the Linux operating system said: “The NIH Syndrome is a Desease”

Food for Thought
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A-CDM – why doesn’t it pick-up speed?

This is the question I got confronted with this week, triggering me to think in more detail about it.

As you may remember, I have written a few introductions posts about A-CDM. I still believe in A-CDM and think it is something airports should implement, but much more important, airlines should demand – and jointly invest into it with their main airport partners to steer developments in the right direction.

de-icing bak3

I don’t have any access any more to the base file, but as a result on the presentation of the Zurich case study I’ve put together for WinterOps.ca, I focused on the “cash” savings, I hadn’t addressed then. We did calculate based on the performance improved expressed on slides 3 and 5 and the underlying data. We used conservative figures from IATA, Eurocontrol and FAA about the cost incurred by delay per minute. Our conservative results for Swiss (airline), the hub carrier at ZRH with a 48% market share in the given winter  saved more than 20 million Euros. Even if we consider the delay cost only applicable beyond 15 minutes, the savings were above € 10 million (approx $ 13 million then). If you consider the cost to set up the system from scratch and the necessary interfaces, one single harsh winter covers up for the cost.

Similar are the savings on normal operations on the bigger airports and on all the hub airports of reasonable size.


Eurocontrol A-CDM Impact Assessment ReportNow my friends in the LinkedIn group CDM@airports celebrate airport Number 20 being A-CDM compliant. And they praise the A-CDM Impact Assessment Study by Eurocontrol. Sorry if I don’t fall into the appraisal and worshiping… The new study again looks very “scientific” at the issue, just “generic” cost savings, no individual example, but such being the argument for the CFO (Chief Financial Officer). In my comments, I got the response that it’s “obvious” and the decision makers are expected to understand the cost savings intuitively. Sorry there, in my experience even when you push their nose on the $ or € amounts they tend to come up with the hen/egg principle. Why should they invest into it, what’s their benefit? And guess what: They’re right!

We got to answer that question to promote the issue.

There’s also a nice animated video about the European ATM master plan linked to the issue. Though looking at the key deliverables, I don’t find the cost savings they promote in the video. It’s again “scientific view point” where executives are to understand the cost savings from the operational improvements. But that’s exactly the point. In my experience, these chief something officers do not spend the time to think that step on their own. As such. Without some company investing into a presentation to convert those operational improvements into cash savings, why would someone want to invest into it?

But the main two questions are: What’s the cost saving for me and who should invest and why? Those questions are not properly addressed I believe.

To rephrase the first question:

Who benefits and what’s the numbers?

Source: Eurocontrol A-CDM Impact Assessment
Source: Eurocontrol A-CDM Impact Assessment

So Swiss at Zurich benefited from an investment by Zurich Airport in the range of what? 20 Million? In one winter alone. But Swiss did not invest. Zurich Airport is. And most airline managers I talk to go “it’s an airport thing”. Sorry. If you’re an airline operations manager and you don’t get the point, you might be over your head on operations and have no vision for your own business’s development. Understandable if you’re a small airline. Not very professional if you work for one of the big shots.

At the right, there’s the “cost savings” slide from the A-CDM Impact Assessment. Back in 2004, the DOT averaged a delay minute with $ 100, more recent figures from Eurostat, IATA or other sources are sometimes substantially higher. The study even addresses the total savings on the fuel side. though 26.8 million on 2.2 million departures don’t sound much. What misses is the amount of delays those 2.2 million departures accumulated. Then you can break it down. Or where and when those delays arose (i.e. during winter operations? ATC delays?

There’s also something we call the A-CDM delay. When flights do not leave “on time”, due to A-CDM constraints. Such your flight could have left “punctual” but sitting duck on the taxi way due to traffic jam. Instead, A-CDM keeps the flight at the gate until the A-CDM system needs it for the now jam-free departure. That’s a change in paradigms! But it’s better for everyone, so you better find a way to solve the resulting repercussions (and yes, there are ideas).

The main benefit is to the airline! Secondary benefit is to the more punctual airport, also thanks to a usual increase in “capacity”. Though it might be noteworthy that even London Heathrow found good reason to invest into A-CDM solutions.

Who should invest – and why?


There’s two opinions I was confronted over the course of the past two years. Airlines believe, that this is a “single airport issue” and should be the concern of the airport. Whereas most airport managers question, why they should invest, if the airline benefits in dollars & cents from the development. O holy dear St. Florian

There were some good approaches as to implement the technology and charge the airline for the savings. That simply does not work, as usually there’s not a single effort to improve punctuality and airlines after tend to question the cost savings to result from that investment. Or airline managers sit back and expect the airport to be interested to provide improved punctuality. Whereas some airports openly questioned that they make more money from delayed passengers than from punctual ones. And as long as it’s not the airport to blame, why should they care too much?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve either. That is an issue, I believe must be addressed by the players on a global scale! That A-CDM Impact Assessment Study was a good idea, just from a practical point of view a lousy execution. It is my honest believe that airline operations managers must understand that they got to demand A-CDM at their hub airports in order to improve on-time performance for the better of their own network. And airline and airport must find a way to benefit both on an investment. The current trend to have the airport pay and the airline to pick the raisins and savings is neither fair, nor does it help to promote comprehensive A-CDM deployment.

That also means that the airline has to invest into their OCCs (Operations Control Centers) to exchange data with the other players as explained in my post APOC, OCC, NMOC and A-CDM.

Food for Thought
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APOC, OCC, NMOC and A-CDM – a Bigger Picture

IHS Jane's ATC Innovation Award 2014
IHS Jane’s ATC Innovation Award 2014

Returning from World ATM Congress in Barcelona (with the IHS Jane’s ATC Innovation Award in my baggage!), I think it’s time to address some feedback on an issue that I keep discussing in LinkedIn and elsewhere: The need to “link” the Airlines Operations Control Center (OCC) and the APOC (Airport Operations Center), the latter being a vital part in A-CDM.

Unfortunately, I see it happening frequently that these “control centers” live in their own little universe with little to no links to their peers. Talking about “Big Data”, Sabre as well as Amadeus and Travelport are “big data players”, though in danger to keep the silo thinking up too long.

Where Sabre once brought global e-Commerce to aviation, back in the 60s, back in the mid-80s, we installed the first Sabre Terminals in European travel agencies, aviation now stumbles behind on the possibilities of global e-Commerce, thanks mostly to technical limitations. As no-one wants to invest… If AA wouldn’t have invested at the time, where would we all be today? But is TPF (Transaction Processing Facility) still the core of our being? Or is it time to move on?

“When we are taught aviation at university we get the impression of how advanced aviation technology really is. When we start working, we are at awe, how little common sense or state-of-the-art is applied in aviation technologies.”

[a student at DLR German Aerospace Agency I recently talked to]

Today’s Agenda

Some keywords what I mean to address here are definitions such as A-CDM (vs. CDM) and Departure – or concepts like Collaboration or Rotation

What is the difference between an Airline Operations Control Center (OCC) and an Airport Operations Center (APOC)? And what about the Air Traffic Control’s Network Management Operations Center (NMOC)? And where is the “collaborative aspect” in these?

Right now, they are just three different data silos and collaboration, where it exists, is on a very small local level.

The OCC focuses to limit the negative impact any disruptions have on the operation of any single aircraft in the fleet. The OCC is – so far – the only point that has a rotational point of view, looking at the entire rotation of the aircraft and trying to minimize the impact of disruptions not just on the flight in question, but for all the ones following that particular “segment” (flight A to B).

PassengerRights2With increasing legal demand to reimburse passengers on late or canceled flights beyond the value of their net fare they paid, this is were money for the airline is burned. And impact of disruptions and delays at the airport or in the air space may be a nuisance for the work at the airport or the air traffic controllers, but they have a commercial impact on the airline:

They are expensive.

Nevertheless, I seem to be rather alone in that point of view in discussions. Yes, there is an intellectual understanding at airports and ANSPs, but I have a gut-feeling, that it does not “compute” there really: Or why is it, that many ANSPs are not having their representative in the APOC? Not to talk about direct links yet. Or in the OCC? Or why do many APOCs not have direct (data) links to the OCCs of even their most important airlines?

What is … Departure Time?

Eeee...gypt_One discussion a few days ago addressed the definition of “departure”. And it is such a basic difference in definition, it hit me like a hammer, making me understand the impact of that different perception! When air traffic control talks about departure, they talk about the take-off of the aircraft (ATOT). When the airline and airports talk about the departure, they often talk about the time, the aircraft leaves it’s parking position at the terminal or on the apron, the off-block-time (AOBT). I had trouble, understanding, why an airport should invest into a “Pre-Departure Sequencer” instead of a DMAN in the delair-definition. The difference is based on the same subtle misperception of departure. The PDS and most “DMANs” out there focus on the TOBT, taking somewhat into account the delivery of the aircraft “in time” to the runway. Based on a rather “static” assumption of ATC capacity. The DMAN in delair perception optimizes the “real” departure. Taking into account minimum separation of aircraft, depending on the Standard Instrument Departure (SID) route and other highly complex parameters, the DMAN calculates the best TOBT. Thus, no matter the general disruptions at the airport and the real throughput on the runway by ATC, it delivers as many aircraft as possible for departure. That maximises the throughput and in turn minimizing the recovery time after general delays or disruptions.

All that though happens at the given airport, i.e. Zürich. Talking with airports about departure management, the issue is about always that ATC (the ANSP) does not participate in the departure management, does not provide the needed information and – heresy! – how could we just imply that we could sort out the sequence for the air traffic controller? It works in Zurich? Heresy!

Is A-CDM not an FAA and Eurocontrol requirement? Burn it at the stake!

But now we go a step further…


The impact of the aircraft rotation and why A-CDM is something airlines should consider linking OCC to APOC, consider to spend time though the ANSPs who initiated the entire process are the ones stumbling behind their once shining visions of collaborative approaches:

Because the ANSP thinks in “Silo” and leg (flight from A to B).

A friend just recently told me about a major market, offering free access to the excellent flight-data for all flights within the region to the ANSP of a neighboring region, giving this to be offered in reverse to them. The neighboring ANSP (smaller) is not interested, the data is for sale. And they don’t see the additional value having access to the live flight data offered to them. Excuse me? That is Silo thinking.


And that is, why aviation technology today is way behind other industries. Because there is still silo-thinking. “Collaborative Decision Making” is a nice concept, but it fails real life on a large scale for the narrow-minded thinking of the people who’s job it would be to push the idea! It’s not about the bigger picture, but simply about own benefit. People call that “Greed” and it’s a mortal sin.

Food for Thought
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A-CDM, TAM and Changing Paradigms

Winter Operations
Winter Operations

The last weeks I was traveling a bit more. And while I attended WinterOps Canada, my boss was at Inter Airport Europe to promote our solutions jointly with our partner UFIS Airport Solutions. Coming back from Canada, I attended the renowned international TAM Symposium, taking place in Braunschweig, where I currently live.

Making new friends in Vancouver, it was my pleasure to also strengthen my friendship with Etienne at TAM Symposium, meeting also wonderful people like Tom, Johan, Anne, Erica, Louise, Kris or Hamsa, just to name a few – you know who you are 😉

One of the core results of these past two weeks is quite frightening. After years of promotion of A-CDM in Europe, there is only a handful of people who understand what A-CDM is all about. Even the experts at TAM Symposium reduced CDM (Collaborative Decision Making) to the sending of DPI-messages (Departure Process Information) to the Eurocontrol NMOC (Network Manager Operations Center). “Eight Airports have established A-CDM”…

As we promoted lately in a press release, Zürich became Eurocontrol CDM compliant (number nine). After doing CDM for more than 10 years, that was newsworthy… Because only now, it counts…?
Though if that is true, if it only counts when the data is linked to the ANSP (Air Navigation Services Provider, Air Traffic Control) why is it always a problem to get the ANSP into the APOCs (Airport Operation Centers) being developed?

Source firewalkeraussies.com
4-way tug-o-war

As I had expressed before, A-CDM is so much more than what most people, even the experts understand it to be. It is not just a concept to share data, but to work together for a common improvement, making sure everyone pulls on the same rope…

Now the makers of the TAM Symposium even add onto it, promoting TAM, Total Airport Management 😮

So what is TAM? Where CDM is mostly focused (so far) on the airside to improve airport processes, TAM adds the landside. Which is by the way, what Meta-CDM is all about as well, right Alison?
Again, if I search for “Total Airport Management” on the Internet, I get a ton of different explanations what TAM is… or is supposed to be? Even from companies who have been attending the TAM Symposium since it first started. Be it DLR, Eurocontrol, Wikipedia or Siemens. If I then turn it to a global scale and look at CDM or TAM, I could start crying.

“And discussing TAM and CDM, one of the key findings was that no-one understands what these developments are all about.”

As Etienne expressed in his short presentation, the main issue – and mostly the missing link – in the end is “The ‘C’ in CDM”. It’s about Change. Complexity. Cloud. Collaboration. Communication. Many things, but mostly not about Collaboration (as the definition says), but about Change.

© 2002, Richard Eastman

Change from a holistic data model with data residing in independent silos, towards a “cloud computing”, where you share the data and the players benefit from the collaboration of data, making sure everyone at any time has the same information at hand. Actually, that reminded me of a presentation of my dear friend Richard, who I quote in the header of this blog, which dates back into 2002 … The underlying concept he raised even as early as 1996!
It is frightening to think that in aviation, the airline, airport, ground handler and air traffic control work – to date – with different data. Supposedly the same, but there’s no guarantee for that…

So do we need to promote “TAM” or “CDM”? Or should we simply start to promote to use state of the art concepts such as “cloud computing” for the benefit of all players?

Sabre 1963

One of the questions that came up in the event was “Who owns the data”? And that is already the wrong question. No-one “owns” the data in a cloud. But by sharing, the quality of data is improved for the benefit of all – if you start of with an assumed value, whoever has the real value first, will amend the information, accessible seamlessly to anyone.

Once the pacemakers in global e-Commerce, enabling global flight booking in the 60’s long before “Internet”, the aviation industry has lost its bite long ago, stumbles behind.

To make CDM or TAM happen, we need to change. And change is (always and everywhere) a major problem. And we should start to think beyond our petty sandboxes, about the benefits of accurate data and how we can work together to a mutual benefit.

Adverse Weather
Adverse Weather

Another question that came up, was about the missing of airlines in CDM-development, they being the main beneficiary of the process. Which is right. If Zurich can now accurately forecast the delays and cancellations caused by winter operations, Zurich can inform the airlines operating flights inbound to Zurich in time to possibly cancel that flight, due to weather, ensuring this particular aircraft aside of that flight stays on-time in its rotation (its daily or weekly operations plan) and does not get stuck in Zurich with a three-hour delay. In reverse, easing the situation for the situation at Zurich.

As a result, the flight cancelled, no passenger compensation will be paid for it or the following flights the aircraft is planned to operate. The resulting cost is lower than if the flight would go without such warning and gets stuck at Zurich.

So yes, the airlines benefit from such development and it is a great pity that they do not understand that. Though as mentioned in my last post, when flying to Vancouver, BA and AA were unable to issue the boarding pass for the next flight segment. So even within the Oneworld Alliance, they seem incapable of sharing the necessary data.

Don Quixote

Now looking back at Richards presentation 2002 (and several before then) and comparing to what Hamsa Balakrishnan of the MIT said in her presentation at the TAM Symposium, I somehow feel reminded of good ol’ Don Quixote.

So let’s keep fighting those wind mills 😀

Food for Thought
(comments welcome)

Update: Following link failures, the files are now linked locally. The original links are:
delair Press Release on Zurich Airport A-CDM (2013)
Richard Eastman @ MIFNET 2002
Hamsa Balakrishnan @ TAM Symposium 2013
Etienne was hired by SITA in Spring 2015
UFIS A/S has been acquired by Amadeus in 2014

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Expanding the Situational Awareness Horizon

“The high accuracy of the tactical forecasting of the de-icing demand by arosa de-icing allows us to pro-actively prepare for upcoming delays or flight cancellations with the ground handling companies, airlines and other involved partners. Our partners have come to understand this high accuracy to give them a tactical advantage compared to other airports working without such tool, allowing them to prioritize their flights and manage not just the current situation, but to prepare for it.”
Urs Haldimann, Head of De-Icing Coordination, Zürich Airport

“arosa PMS is a vital tool to early identify capacity constraints, we have it usually on the ACC’s center screen. Its identification of upcoming delays allows us and our partners in the ACC to take preliminary action, minimizing the real delays and their impact to our travelers.”
Thomas Hansen, Head of Airport Control Center, Düsseldorf International Airport

Source: eluniversal.com

One of the issues I keep discussing and explaining these days is the necessity to expand the situational awareness horizon in operations (aviation).

Today, most experts in operations are working based on “experience”. Though in stress, errors and misconceptions are likely. Where the traffic normally is ambitious, it is worse when all flights are full in high season. Taxiway constructions has impact to runway capacity, more ad hoc traffic than normal and then there is that weather front that might worsen the situation. The weather front? Which weather front. Ooops, missed…

“Pre-tactical” my colleagues call it, as “forecasting” in operational terminology is used for seasonal forecast. That you could imply to forecast traffic development or de-icing delays for the upcoming hours? Heretical!

Is it? Or did aviation simply loose it’s bite in embracing technological possibilities? One hyped word today is “Big Data”. If you embrace “Big Data”, why would you recoil from the idea of mathematically sound forecasting of several hours of flight planing?

Food for Thought
comments welcome
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Weather Whims

Composite Photo (JB)
Composite Photo (JB)

Air Berlin reports 86.6% load factor only for July, thanks to the weather, the last minute passengers were missing.

Ryanair and Easyjet report “only” 1-2% growth in ticket sales for July

Norwegian growth – I am sure they did not have as much “impact” of the hot summer weather as we had in Central/West Europe.

In general, I hear that many travel agencies complained about the lowered interest during this record hot July – do we call it a centenary summer again?

Despite the fact, I currently work on Winter Operations again, preparing for my presentation at WinterOps.ca. And I just happen to think about the Eyjafjallajökull and its impact to European flights in 2010.

What this shows again (in my believe) is the impact of weather to airline flight management.

Airports operate at the limits of their slots. But what are those slots based on? Good weather? Seasonality? Winter Season (in Europe) goes from End October to March, just covering the worst period and enabling the airports to reduce their flight movements. Though why people would fly less in winter remains beyond me, I appreciate to leave the ugly rainfall at home for a week in the sun – and business travel is mostly reduced during July/August – the summer holidays.

All it does tell is the missing understanding of airline management. No matter if summer or winter, if sunny or cold, the aircraft has to fly. Preferably fully booked at good prices. If you only sell in summer, you need to ask higher prices as you have to cover your losses during fall, winter and spring… If you need to do that, your prices are likely not competitive.

Sky Airlines started first to build a German subsidiary with the original idea to utilize the fleet from Germany to the Canary Islands or Egypt in Winter, when travel between Germany and Turkey is low. Whereas the same question about utilization sure also applies to the hotels in the regions.

Image ©2010 Flughafen Zürich
Image ©2010 Flughafen Zürich

So yeah, that’s why I do address WinterOps and see tools such as the one developed by delair as important for airlines. To increase the “throughput” during “adverse weather”.

Zurich Airport reported a record season last winter: 75% more de-icing than in the previous winter season. 33% more than in the last record winter 2003/04.  At the same time worse snow, the usage of “type 4” increasing from 30 to 41% (compared to type 1). And punctuality dropped only marginally to 75.3% from 79.1% in the previous year. This should be a major wake-up-call not as much for the airports as for the airlines! Because it reflects that hundreds of flights less had to be cancelled or delayed. Given the ability of Zurich to forecast the development by several hours, giving the airlines time to prepare, inform the passengers and thus minimize the impact. The airlines should be demanding such technology at the airports they fly to and from of even finance it themselves.

But WinterOps aside, the recent reports also show how dependent airlines to date are on the weather. Given the little profit margins they control, a “hot summer” can be hopp or topp for a route or even an airline. All yield management can fail when weather is involved. And yes, doesn’t that remind me of the “fog hole” at Stuttgart-Echterdingen…

Just some

Food for Thought

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What is A-CDM?

As many ask(ed), the blog might be the best to address your questions, about my new life @delair… And beyond.

As a student lately quoted to me, she expected airlines and airports to be on the forefront of technological development and integrated processes. She was surprised to find the truth being (mostly):
Nobody speaks with anybody.


I have been aware of FAA NextGen before, but you may already see the shortcoming of it: It only addresses the time from a departure to the arrival at the airport…

Now A-CDM (theoretically) takes care of the processes from the arrival to the departure and starts to develop the concept of an integrated solution beyond the airport itself. A-CDM stands for Airport-Collaborative Decision Making. So the reality at most airports today is that the different companies servicing and serving the airport are communicating by telephone, fax, telex or other inefficient means with each other and the level of automatism at airports is simply devastating.

But this addresses two parts of a process, largely ignorant of the other. To solve this, the ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) organizing the “air space” need to interface with the ground handling processes of the airports, involving airlines, ground handlers, government bodies, etc., etc.!

In reality, the two approaches should interface to each other in a collaborative approach too, so far, the ANSP pushes data to the airport: “Eat This”…


Airlines think in “rotations”, usually on a “weekly” basis. An aircraft takes off Monday Morning, flies all day to different airports, overnights, flies again, until it’s Sunday and the aircraft is back home where it started for another weekly rotation. And there are technicals (i.e. aircraft grounded due to engine failure or a warning light malfunction), weather (such as caused by an ice-rain or thunderstorm), or other operational delays, making the live of an airline network planner and the operations control center (airline department trying to cover the afore-mentioned problems) not any easier. Now add the complexity of inefficient ground handling processes and air traffic control and you wonder that any flight takes off “on-time”…

DUS ACCAs my first “job” in delair, I happened to be at the Dusseldorf Airport Control Center (ACC), where the airport created an operations center, bringing together intentionally the different stakeholders in the ground-handling process, being the airport’s own departments, the airlines, ground-handlers, but also the government bodies – not the ANSP (yet) I am afraid. And with a worldwide unique tool by delair, they not only react “on-the-fly” to the operational situation, but the software forecasts the traffic development for the next 12 hours (arosa PMS, Performance Management System). Enabling the ACC to see bottlenecks before they hit them and take pro-active counter-measures to minimize their impact or even avoid such completely. At all other airports, these bottlenecks are handled, when it hits you in the neck. Not very professional in my eyes. Predictive chaotic and uncontrolled situations is the opposite of situational awareness and it adds to the incurring delay.

Example: If the country faces heavy snow, the de-icing process reduces the airport’s capacity to take aircraft into the air. If you see that coming, you may be aware hours before, that you will have to cancel at least 50% of your flights. But which ones? In the current environment at most airports, it is ad-hoc decisions. In a controlled “predicted” situation, the airlines may select a short-haul return-connection to be cancelled, but a flight where the aircraft is needed at the destination airport to be prioritized. Say the airport needs to run with 50% reduced capacity for three hours – predicted two hours before. To have the shuttle flight leaving to the nearby airport, likely to face same weather problems, does not make sense. The flight to the (warm) South though, does make sense, as until it comes back, the weather should be back to normal…

Hear me at WinterOps.ca: De-Icing Swiss style (a case study)

[Updated: Link to presentation added]

Keep in mind, thinking about this dilemma: Only an aircraft that flies makes money. Cancel the flight and see your hardly accumulated profit margins evaporate like butter in the summer midday sun! By paying passengers compensations applied by government legislations beyond reasonable scope. Sure the airline calculates such into their prices. Making tickets more expensive. An airline looses not only by less flying in winter, but a large sum by paying for cancellations and delays resulting from bad operational support from airports and ANSPs. And so far, the airline pays. Though I heard of first examples, where the airline sues the airport or ANSP for inefficiency-caused expense. Though even those cases do not claim the cost on the entire rotation, but on the individual flight. So far. I truly believe that will change soon!

All that more or less nice and smooth so far, right…? It does not help anything, as long as the ANSPs stay out of the development loop or develop their own ideas without any “collaborative” approach. Sure, there are people there who do think beyond their own, but the feedback I got during the last months shows an extreme level of neglect of the overall situation. Go back to the airline rotation… I could cry.
Consider the weather situation again… Thanks to the snow-storm, several routes have airborne capacity problems. As have the destination airports. But the approach is always local! Even Dusseldorf is largely unaware of the situation in the airspace or at the destinations. As the ANSPs remain ignorant of the needs of the airlines, airports or the rotations. They get the aircraft delivered to the runway and then we face a break. Good luck… And given the weather: The ANSP will handle the flight, no matter if the destination airport can handle it back. So aircraft may be brought in to an airport, when it would be reasonably known that the airport will close soon due to weather development. Ignorance instead of situational awareness! And another likely break in the rotation of that aircraft, causing a ripple down the line.


So after that introduction, a quick excursion to my new world (as the blog topic of the day)… As mentioned, A-CDM defines the ground-based process enhancements. The “arrival manager” (AMAN, mostly on the ANSP-side) organized the delivery of incoming aircraft, prioritizing the runway capacity – unfortunately, largely unaware of the airport’s capacity or processes. Based on the scheduled and planned arrival information, the airport now struggles to handle the ground-based processes. From organizing the Follow-Me-vehicles, to deciding where to park the aircraft (stand), could be at the gate or on the apron with bus-transfer, mobile staircase and additional time needed for transfer apron-terminal (and back out). Oh yes, and the airport and ground handlers usually have a limited number of “bridged” gates where the aircraft stand is right at the terminal, limited number of staircase-vehicles, follow-me’s, busses, etc. At Erfurt Airport, there are four gaterooms (and four aircraft stands at the terminal), but only one baggage belt. So you better schedule your arrivals to not have four aircraft like A320s arriving within 30 minutes… Luckily, they don’t have the traffic to use A-CDM or need it, but it is the same at many larger airports that such bottlenecks exist.

So you also manage the baggage belt, staff rosters to assure you not only have the technology, but also the people to do the job. And the customs/immigration counters (and staff) to manage the arriving aircraft.

Ignoring the idea (just here in the blog, not in reality) to taxi the aircraft to maintenance or park it for overnight or … we then go into the “outbound process”. The passengers want to check-in, so you allocate the check-in-counters. As well as you need to make sure, you have the aircraft positioned to a fitting gate – there are usually domestic and international ones (where for the sake of ease, I do consider “Schengen” as “domestic” in the process). So you send the passengers to the gates. And you better understand that airports mostly do not make much income on the flight handling, today they make money on the “non-aviation-business”, such as the shops between check-in and aircraft. You need to manage the lounges, assure the border security, baggage control and passenger screening to be efficient. See my article about Check-in 2015 for ideas on that…

ATCThen another fun part comes… They are in time checked-in, they are at the gate. But due to ATC-constraints, there is no slot. There might be one at your airport, but at the destination…? Do you board the passengers and stick them into the plane if you know there’s a 30 minute delay? Very likely, if the delay is at the remote airport, you will… Thank you. If it is at your airport and they use A-CDM and a “Departure Manager” (DMAN), they do organize the departure based on the runway capacity. Did I mention that usually a runway is not used for departures only? Sorry, aircraft also arrives and uses capacity… But I only know of one working AMAN/DMAN combination in use. And you do need to consider not only the ATC-slot of the aircraft, but now need to take into account parameters such as taxi-times, maybe de-icing, the flow of aircraft on the taxi-way (you don’t like to have an outgoing aircraft on the same taxiway of an opposite directed incoming one)…

So considering all that data, based on the ATC-slot, you specify the TOBT and the TSAT, the “targeted off-block-time” and the “targeted (engine) start-up-time”… Then you deliver the aircraft to the runway and … pray.

What is my scenario for an efficient operation of air services?

Yeah, right… First of all, the ANSPs need to harmonize their problems. Because in most economies (maybe not that much in North America), there are a number of national ANSPs and there are projects to work with “block spaces”, which is another way of a work-around to inefficiencies… An optimized process should not start with the ANSP or the airport or the ground handler, but with the airline. What does it help the airline to have a “slot” at an airport, if it does not fit the rotation needs. Or if the airline must calculate a “planned delay” in the process as the aircraft will not be efficiently “turned around”, but handled on the apron instead of the gate, as the airport sold beyond capacity. Or worse, held in holding pattern on approach due to excessive demand. And every winter, you add the weather problems, that sure take everyone by surprise… Again…

Aircraft Rotation Planing

Why IATA does handle “slot conferences“, but does not address a neutral slot optimization for complete rotations is simply beyond me. Yes, it is complex, but using flight plan data, IATA could develop software to suggest improvements to slots for all involved airlines at a neutral level, taking the rotation as a basis and not – as is today – an individual flight! Today, the airline as the operator struggles to match the available slots to their aircraft operational planning on rotations basis. A common complain by airports is, that airlines have slots assigned, but the aircraft is always early or late, interfering with slots assigned to other airlines. To call that efficient? And the reason is known as soon as you have a closer look: The rotation. A “planned” difference from the assigned slot… Because the “needed” slot wasn’t offered…
Ahh, isn’t the “buzz-word” at the moment in IT? Big Data…

You cannot do such a cross-airline rotation based slot optimization by hand. And rotation may include the airline’s wish to meet certain “waves”, the transfer-windows at hub airports. But I believe, IATA could and should invest into a solution that takes the rotation planning into account and enable improvements to capacity. And the airports should not consider capacity only on the maximum good-weather capacity and wishful thinking, but they should consider bad weather and make contingency plans together with the airlines in the early stage – if flights are being cancelled frequently, the business traveler will reject them as unsave and plan pro-actively on alternate transportation – with severe impact to the airline’s financial calculations. And the airline will be faced with the compensation to the customers and the missing profit from the flight! So at this time, the “looser” is (and remains) the airline. But I heard in the last A-CDM task force meetings, only one airline attended. Which I believe is the cause of the dilemma. You got to involve yourself as an airline and voice your needs. Another nice example by Dusseldorf. Air Berlin as a key stakeholder (hub carrier) at Dusseldorf, has been a key driver in the ACC’s development there. But talking to Route Planners at many large airlines, there is neither “vision”, nor “concept”, that and how the dilemma can be solved. And without receiving the necessary top-level corporate support, this is likely to stay as is. A planned (and accepted) inefficiency.

Yeah, I hope, I trigger quite some (controversial) feedback with this blog post, as yes, such can only scratch on the surface of things. Or cut deep on a single aspect, though there is a whole picture out there. I know the complexities of route (rotation) planning, as I know unmentioned complexities at airports and ANSPs. But

Food For Thought
Comments welcome

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