What-If Scenario Planning for Aviation Scheduling


The COVID-19 crisis drastically affected the airline industry, forcing airlines to ground much of their fleet and airports operating at close to empty. Those responsible for airport operations and supporting sectors such as security, access control, handling and customer services scrambled for a solution. Airlines had to decide which flights to keep and which passengers to repatriate and airports had to alter their staffing to accommodate the reduced capacity but doing so in a fair and transparent way to their workforce. Now, as demand is gradually returning, a similar approach is needed for meeting the increase in volumes, additional services required, and the return to work process for staff.

The need for What-If Scenario Planning

What-If Scenario Planning helps planners and managers in operations undertake a review of the different growth and staffing options, presenting these in a way where the options can be easily compared. This helps the business design efficient and flexible rosters, in conjunction with other stakeholders and staff, to produce plans which meet the expected need for the coming weeks but be flexible to accommodate changes. It enables you to run both long- and short-term simulations for a variety of strategic and operational decisions.

What-If Analysis enables you to review different scenarios for demand (additional flights, increased load, impact of extra services) and supply (which staff groups, increase in hours vs. staff, dedicated vs. shared resourcing), or even both. This analysis enables you to make informed decisions which will affect your Service Levels, Staff, and ultimately your Cost-to-Serve in these dynamic times.

The passenger experience has changed through the course of the pandemic, and aviation operations have changed with it. The reduction in flights, passengers, and services offered, mixed with additional focus on the touchless passenger journey through the airport, extra requirements on cleaning, temperature checks, passenger flow management, all make planning more challenging.

As we move towards the ‘next normal’, the simple theory of ‘what worked last month’ will not apply to this month or next month, so informed, intelligent, and flexible solutions need to be applied.

Conditions for What-If Scenario Planning

All industries have been affected by the pandemic, and the global aviation impacts have been significant as one of the first industries affected and likely to be one of the last to fully recover as different countries implement changes in different ways.

With passenger flights cancelled and loads dropping, Airlines, Airports, Security Operators, Ground Handling Agents, and other Service providers saw a steep change in their business requirements and the resulting impact on their workforces. Different countries implemented different support packages (Wage Subsidy, Furlough) and different companies had to create a strategy for managing their workforce through this time.

Several of Tambla’s clients used What If Scenario Planning in the early days of the pandemic to help identify strategies to manage their workforces. Examples include everything from retaining all the permanent workforce on reduced hours to the implementation of on-call working through to significant lay-offs. These strategies very much depended on the geography, customer engagement, and wider workforce strategy with individual clients.

One major benefit of What If Analysis is the speed of generation and ease of comparison of different scenarios. This allows for a strategy to be tested and the benefits identified, then possibly further refined over different iterations. A final set of options can be shared with different stakeholders (customer, regulator, union, workforce, etc) to obtain buy-in and understanding of the solutions and reach a consensus on the way forward. By doing this, the headcount requirement, proposed roster, coverage, and risks have been identified, as well as the costs of the scenarios.

As aviation operations begin to slowly bounce back, we are seeing again the use of What If Analysis to support business decision making. How does future growth and lifting of restrictions impact your staffing? With services slowly returning over time and new services being required, how are these resourced? Does the strategy change as government support packages evolve or end? The same outputs as before can now be used to identify headcount, plans and costs, but can also support your return-to-work program and any training or re-certifications that are required.

With recovery likely to be variable, looking more like a rollercoaster than a v- or u-shaped bounce back,  the need for flexibility and the ability to quickly and easily analyse options for the workforce will likely be a key differentiator for organisations looking to provide a cost-effective service to their customers whilst retaining a supporting and motivated workforce, whether in aviation or indeed any industry.


The role of What-If scenario planning in Scheduling

The pandemic has created a set of circumstances which have impacted all businesses and their workforces in different ways and has also impacted consumer behaviours for the long term. Workforce Management in general, and Workforce Planning specifically, can contribute to an organisation becoming more resilient and flexible in its approach to meeting future demand in a flexible, cost effective and transparent way.

An analytical approach, supported by the right tools and insight can help answer some of the likely questions which will come up for all organisations in the coming months, such as:

  • What is the impact of month-to-month growth by 5%, 10%, 20%?
  • Are changes in demand uniform or only at certain times or days, or impacting only certain areas of the operation?
  • What impact does worker distancing have within operations on efficiency and the impact on staffing levels?
  • With extra services now being required, what impact does this have on the scheduling and training processes?
  • How and when should staff and/or hours be increased in line with future expectations?
  • How can we cope with unexpected changes in demand and temporarily flex up or down?
  • When should staff groups begin the return to work process?
  • What are our expectations for 2021 and beyond?

What-If Scenario Planning with Tambla

What If Scenario Planning is a core component within the Aviation WFM Solution at Tambla, allowing users to visualise the efficiency of their Optimised scenario output based on overlaying the created Schedule over the Demand Profile. This is used frequently by planners, even in the best of times, as each day and week can be different. Outputs include the schedule, coverage, utilisation statistics, plus headcount breakdown and forecast hours and cost.

The strategic use of this functionality also allows for scenarios to be evaluated for the future including budgeting, modelling bargaining agreement changes, impacts of contract wins (losses), and, as has been seen recently, to evaluate strategies to navigate through the pandemic.

Users of this functionality typically use this more and more as part of an informed analytic approach to their Workforce Management, whether themselves or via short term engagements with Tambla Consultants.

For more information, visit our website to learn more about our industry solutions within the Aviation industry contact me below and for our wider Workforce Planning and Analysis functionality use the email at the top of the website.

All the best

Leon Youngman


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