What does coordination activity look like after widespread alleviation?

As our industry navigates one of the biggest challenges to aviation, we look at the more localised impact of Covid-19 and how Airport Coordination Limited (ACL)’s coordinator’s workloads have changed in the weeks following widespread alleviation.

by Chris Butler- Airport Capacity Analyst

The upheaval caused by Covid-19 and the associated granting of alleviation from the need to use slots to maintain historic rights in the summer season has resulted in mass flight cancellations, airport closures and other disruptions. This has meant that the usual volume of coordination messages received has varied significantly from what ACL would expect at the beginning of a ‘normal’ summer season and as such resulted in a significant increase in activity required by the coordinator community.

Towards the end of the Winter coordination season the volume of messages per week closely followed the levels seen in 2019. Following the increased impact of the outbreak of coronavirus however, the volume of messages received by ACL steadily increased. With alleviation of slots for the summer season granted, this culminated in an unprecedented peak in messages received, as the airlines responded by cutting back their schedules. At this peak, ACL managed over 13,500 individual messages in one week at over 40 different airports, from hundreds of different airlines.

This peak in coordination messages represented a 300% increase versus the same week in 2019, with substantial increases seen in the weeks leading up to the peak.

In addition to an increase in the volume of messages received during the peak period, the complexity of coordination also increased. This is due to unusual circumstances such as partial and full airport closures, as well as cancellation messages from airlines covering long periods of the season.

The result of this is a decrease in automation, meaning coordinators have a higher volume of messages that must be handled manually. The proportion of messages needing to be handled manually has nearly doubled.

Utilising our experience as the world’s oldest independent slot coordinator and from our frequent experience managing peak demand at airports during special or sudden events, ACL has responded to these challenges by providing flexible and efficient coordination in an extremely difficult time for the whole aviation industry.

Whilst it is likely that we have seen the initial peak of message volumes for the season, these challenges will continue. It is likely that we will see further cancellation activity in the weeks ahead as airlines adjust to changing circumstances throughout the summer season. ACL will continue to react to these challenges, benefitting from our experience and unique industry relationships, aiming to continue to provide coordination excellence in these difficult circumstances.

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