Air Canada Optimizes Flight Crew Scheduling — and Keep Employees Happy

When Air Canada acquired Canadian Airlines in 2000 it found itself with a new set of complex scheduling and management problems. The number of pilots it had to schedule for flights jumped from 2200 to 3600, an instant increase of 60 percent. Air Canada turned to Altitude PBS, a preferential bidding system developed by Montreal’s AD OPT Technologies to help it with scheduling decisions. Altitude is a suite of advanced planning and scheduling applications used by airlines for workforce planning, scheduling, and management.
Air Canada now uses Altitude PBS to generate the flight schedules of its pilots from Canadian Airlines. The system has three components: a Bidder Interface, a Scheduler Interface, and an Optimizer. Flight crew members use the Bidder interface to specify the schedules they prefer from an extensive menu of choices. Employees can submit their bids from their home or on the road using an e-Scheduling module that can be accessed on the Internet or from designated terminals in airport pilot lounges. The system will take these personal preferences into account when making work assignments. The system also considers factors such as type of aircraft; crew seniority; crew locations; employee time for vacations, illness, and training; and company, union and government regulations when making scheduling assignments. The system then applies mathematical models to generate optimum flight schedules that address the business needs of management, industry and government rules and regulations, and the personal needs of flight crews. Altitude determines the optimal way to accommodate the preferences of crew members and the objectives of airline management.

By helping airline management make crew scheduling more efficient, Altitude is capable of producing annual savings of 5 percent and more in total labor and related expenses. This can be worth millions of dollars a year.

Sources: Jacques Desrosiers, “Air Canada Reaches ‘Altitude’,” OR/MS Today, April 2001; “Altitude

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