How to avoid flight disruptions

M.any will saw tv set Footage of a tragic traveler unable to visit family on vacation due to a cyclone-induced meltdown on Southwest Airlines, America’s largest domestic airline. But few people know about travel hell just south of the Tijuana airport border. This is due to the mayhem caused by the fog on his Volaris, Mexico’s largest low-cost carrier. Your columnist does. He and Mrs. Schumpeter spent much of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing His Day stranded there with thousands of other travelers, rebooking canceled flights to destinations across Mexico. I tried to make a reservation. For the most part resignation, not anger, prevailed. But the Christmas cheer faded when, after 11 hours in line to rebook tickets, people were told by a Volaris rep that they were in the wrong line. Sent a seasonal tweet. “The magic of Christmas extends to his entire Volaris family.”

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The two incidents have many similarities. Both were weather related. They said the same day he became critical on December 23rd and dragged out much of the holiday. Their impact was traumatic. During its peak, Southwest Airlines canceled nearly three-quarters of flights, according to FlightAware, which tracks airline activity. Heavy fog in Tijuana forced Volaris to cancel 45% of its flights across its network, hitting Mexican migrants returning from their core market, the United States. Both airlines fared worse than their full-service rivals. United Airlines, for example, has a large presence in Denver and Chicago, where the situation is particularly acute, but has canceled far fewer flights than Southwest Airlines. Unlike Volaris, traditional Mexican airline Aeromexico resumed flights from Tijuana as soon as the fog cleared.

So what can we learn from the accident and how can we avoid it in the future? For Southwest, much of the focus is on obsolete technology, some of which is new. CEO, Bob Jordan had promised an upgrade in early December.But aviation industry is also human. When that fails, it becomes clear how important it is for pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and ground staff to be in the right place at the right time. An interview with Volaris boss Enrique Beltranena is a reminder that human problems are at least as difficult to solve as technical problems.

he starts with both measuring kalpa Excuse me. The United States and Mexico experienced weather problems over Christmas, and airlines became particularly reluctant to cancel flights, citing emotional distress for passengers. “It probably took too long before we bit the bullet and actually canceled what we had to cancel,” he admits. For Southwest and Volaris, this was a particular problem. That’s because both airlines mostly fly point-to-point instead of returning to the hub like traditional airlines do. The point-to-point model popularized by Southwest has many advantages. Airplanes make their money in the air, not sitting on the runway. For example, Volaris aircraft, on average he flies to more than 5 different airports in a day. But when problems arise, it’s easier to dispatch aircraft from hubs to rescue stranded passengers than to reroute flights from countless airports. is easy to find.

As Beltranena explains, to prevent problems from snowballing into crisis, flights must be scrapped ahead of time and aircraft quickly rerouted as backup. However, canceling preemptively is a difficult choice. Henry Harteveldt, president of his Atmosphere Research Group, a consultancy, likens this to deciding “which one of my kids to throw out of an airplane.” Neither Southwest nor Volaris were able to do it quickly enough to protect the broader network, and FlightAware data confirms a cascading problem in Southwest. They show that few flights were scrapped in the days before the storm, with cancellations skyrocketing from his 33% of flights on Dec. 23 to his 74% three days later. “Southwest is closer to a complete airline reboot than I’ve ever seen,” says FlightAware’s Kathleen Bangs. A few days later, Volaris took drastic measures as well. “We basically restarted the whole process,” says Beltranena.

The next problem was the ground. Passengers asked for suitcases. But ground staff are human too. In Denver, some people couldn’t show up for work. In Tijuana, Bertranena said baggage handlers worked too much overtime and were exhausted by the time the new shift started. Additionally, there was a chronic lack of communication as passengers tried to rebook flights. A small number of his Volaris staff couldn’t handle the thousands of passengers stranded in Tijuana, and the airline’s call center made matters worse by promising to rebook passengers for flights that no longer existed. I was allowed to. Beltranena believes the answer is to hire more people.

Maximum reboot is that system. Southwest’s crew management technology has failed to keep pace with the airline’s increasingly complex network. Volaris, too, apparently let it down. Jahan Alamzad california The problem, according to consulting firm Advisors, is that while airlines are focused on creating compelling customer-facing applications such as reservation systems, back-end applications like tracking flights, crew, maintenance, and weather are becoming increasingly scarce. It is operated in silos. To reroute planes and crews in times of stress, having a real-time overview is critical.

Brace position

new that Installing infrastructure is difficult. Airlines can’t just rip off the old and put the new in. Systems need to be integrated. The fear of hacking is also widespread. But the biggest hurdle is probably the human problem. Airlines such as Southwest and Volaris consider themselves exceptional. They have grown so quickly that they risk becoming complacent. weird weather It could be an act of God, as Mr. Beltranena says. But there’s no reason not to prepare for the worst.

Read the article by Schumpeter, a columnist on global business.
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