By John McDermott
When to Outsource Flight Planning
Flight planning is among the most important aspects of day-to-day flight operations. Airlines, companies and aircraft owners need to set up schedules that allow for safe flights while maintaining tight schedules. And flight planning during the coronavirus pandemic is no different, as operators need to factor in additional required services such as enhanced cleaning between trips.
Airlines and aircraft owners often have internal dispatchers that familiar with a specific method of flight planning. They can schedule services under specific parameters. But there are times when these internal flight planners might not have all the skills necessary to build an entire route structure, and external flight planning becomes necessary.
Perhaps the best time to outsource flight planning is when an airline begins international services for the first time. If in-house dispatchers do not have experience with foreign markets, it is helpful to have assistance from a department that knows more. Third-party flight planners can help manage overflight fees – charges for using a certain country’s airspace – and will know the easiest and cheapest places to find ground staff, aircraft storage and maintenance in a new destination. Essential lessons that may take an airline’s flight department months or years to master can be streamlined instantly with an outsourced planner.
It may also be helpful to outsource flight planning if an aircraft owner flies a limited route network. These flights may be too much work for just a few staffers or pilots but not enough to justify a dedicated flight planning department. By outsourcing flight planning, companies have an experienced and flexible resource that can offer a range of services to match specific needs – all without needing to pay for extra office space or to train new employees. Third-party flight planners can even adapt to seasonal fluctuations in planning needs, helping aircraft owners focus on other critical needs.
One of the biggest worries about outsourcing flight planning is that it’s unsafe. While it may be easy to scapegoat external flight departments when things go wrong, flight planning companies actually have a pool of skilled dispatchers, supervisors and staff that are well-trained to safely handle flights. Many companies also have escalation procedures to hand off issues to senior personnel should difficult problems arise, affording aircraft owners the peace of mind that their flights will be handled by a team of knowledgeable dispatchers – not just one single staffer.
Plus, advancements in technology make it easy to transfer information between flight dispatchers and flight departments at airlines, streamlining the planning process to streamline operations across the board.
It’s also not true that outsourcing flight planning locks an aircraft owner in with the same dispatcher forever. If the owner decides, for example, that a specific flight planner isn’t meeting expectations, switching to another company is a seamless process. Swapping flight planners does not keep aircraft owners from accessing experienced crews; rather, other flight dispatchers are just as experienced and offer unique skills and benefits that can be extraordinarily helpful in flight planning.
This article is sponsored by Flightworx, one of the industry’s leaders in flight planning, operations and management, deliveries and maintenance, ground handling, and numerous other facets of the flight support field. Visit their website to learn more.