On Time Performance

Improving On-Time Performance (OTP) of the Airlines

How far the Chennai Metro rail project progressed and how soon will it get over ?… Dr. Jason was asking his question by viewing through his window from the 7th floor of the popular hotel in Mount Road. Answering the CIO of the largest airlines in the APAC Region does need time because I need to have my fish-bone done – mentally – before answering him. He is one of the sharpest professional I ever met. He silently turned away from window, took out and handed over the bunch of reports to me.  Published by DGCA-India. Additional documents with the internal remarks supplemented by his Airport team. Well, It’s an On-Time Performance Report. DGCA [ the same can be accessed at http://www.dgca.nic.in/reports/otp.pdf  appeared as on 15th Apr 2017] given the details on  the OTP by airlines along with delay reasons.  Obviously his question on Chennai Metro carries lot of weightage since the construction delay may further delay his passengers to reach the airport on-time to board the flight eventually one of their challenge that they experience in Chennai.

Report claims the worst performance at Chennai airport by his airline, not so great at other major airports as well.  I understood now what business case he brought to me. Dr. Jason was looking curious and waiting for me to complete the reading. Of course, for my remarks, as well.

It took few minutes before narrating the case of On-Time Performance on – how this particular subject – kept aside by most of the airlines and making the airlines to pay penalties to the airport authorities due to poor coordination (Apart from the customer dissatisfaction). In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates flight delays costs the airlines $22 billion per annum (as penalty alone) . Airlines are forced to pay federal authorities when they hold planes on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and for more than four hours in case of International flights. But it is not new to APAC as well.

The overall Airport or station delays are caused due to various attributes at different levels which results in the OTP performance of the airline.


Station Delay attributes at different levels


Dr. Jason has been listening curiously without any reaction- as I continued with my response.


Well, Dr. Jason. We are aware of all the casual analysis on the question as to ‘why achieving the On-Time Performance is always a spin’. But – What is the solution ? The question need to be answered, obviously.  Let us now narrow down what can address some basics so that the OTP can be improved.

Airport Activity Stages


To have a better OTP, we need to look at all the above stages, Not only Stage 3. Stage 3 represents the duration between Gate arrival to Pushback of the equipment(Aircraft). However we need to consider the stage 1, 2 also to be monitored very closely.  The stage 4 and 5, typically helps the respective stakeholders like – Commercial, Operational & Engineering team to improve their full suite of features to achieve the overall target. Especially  (1) Terminal Services  (2) Ramp Services  (3) Engineering Services and  (4) Flight Operation Services plays a significant role on ensuring OTP.

Airlines are forced to pay federal authorities when they hold planes on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and for more than four hours in case of International flights

While the CORE Departments like Commercial, Operational, Engineering are in action, there are other stake-holders like Security, Catering, Cargo, Cabin Appearance and Support play its role. Every team has to perform their designated task within the stipulated time.

The Master list of tasks includes “Above the Wings” and “Below the Wings” activities. The sample list of activities are given in brief (not the exhaustive list):

Sample List of Activities

I said, Dr. Jason, Let me propose the solution. Here is the gist:

  • We should deploy – AI Based solution supplemented with Robotics Process Automation. The system should have the Self Learning Capability (SLC) in order to stream-line the entire OTP meets the customer and other stake-holder demands.
  • The self-learning capability (‘SLC’) to ensure the system to readjust its own benchmarks against the LIVE DATA while it serves the operation team. The built-in analytical capability of the system will refine the bench-mark at station level or at the task level using the ‘across the station level’ performance data and keep reporting on the deviations across tasks, stations.
  • First time installation – will be commissioned / configured – considering the current station level parameters (Assume in some stations the fuel will take 5 minutes to arrive and in some places it may take 7 minutes to arrive… the configuration and bench-mark will be fined-tuned against the type of geography, airport coverage areas and on its size)
  • All repeated tasks are subjected using Robotics Process Automation. RPA will keep pushing and pulling the data from various sources at above the wings and below the wings.
  • All the activities will be monitored by the system which includes Resource Management (Against the number of resources reported, Skill-wise). The resource deployment mapping will be done once the base configuration is done. Once the live data is getting matured, SLC will provide the deployment structure needed against the number of equipment per station – either getting added, removed for the current and future services.
  • System will provide all the tasks assigned to every individuals, their reporting time, status update provisions so that the resources can keep in touch / live with the core product. However, RPA will drive the scenarios and resources. Any deviation will be diverted / alerted through voice to the supervisor of the resource, automatically. The dashboard will move to amber against the particular service rendered for the particular aircraft.
  • All the tasks will be pushed to the individuals and the mobile app will have the option – either the task is completed or in progress. Any delays sensed against the particular task or person or at the airport level now comes under close scrutiny at the Airport Manager Level (Mini Operation Control Center) and at the Central team level.
  • The OCC dashboard will reflect – the progress of assignments – at every equipment (Aircraft) level and will get monitored with simple push and acknowledgment of completion message from the individual or the team leader.
  • The above system SHOULD BE an on-line system and the feeding has to happen without any interruption. This would enable the OTP team to become more proactive rather than reactive.

Dr. Jason just got up, shaking his head and my hand, very warmly. He conveyed his sincere commitment to the above solution and suggested to start building the same. Automation is the key to drive for a success. The automation with SLC will make any new system more healthy and future-proof.

Yep, Dr. Jason is right.


  • Ravi April 20, 2017 Reply

    Wonderful article well written one by author Baskar.

  • Imran Naveed April 20, 2017 Reply

    Very insightful information, the different points which contribute to flight delays are very clearly identified and presented as also the viewpoint on how to apply AI/automation to flag the potential issues that could cause delay and address them on time.

  • Santosh Srinath April 21, 2017 Reply

    Basky – This OTP concept will be a huge boon and will yield lot of savings to the Airliners. Yes, SLC with AI is going to be the next level of Paradigm Shift predominantly in most of the industries in the near future. Thank you for this wonderful blog 😉

  • Riaz Ahmed April 21, 2017 Reply

    Very well written, Baskar. Yes, you said it right – “Automation is the key to drive for a success” – as punctuality is a major factor for passengers to decide which airline to fly.

  • Hemalatha S April 21, 2017 Reply

    Good topic selected and well written Baskar. As we always believe in the innovation and automation, this OTP would a great platform for us.

  • Mamata Dash April 21, 2017 Reply

    Dear Baskar,
    Great article – improving OTP of the Airlines with AUTOMATION. Well written with very good points with examples and elaborations. It gives clear picture of how much AUTOMATION is helping to achieve something on-time and the importance of categorizing and listing down the activities, then sequencing them based on their need and priority. Overall, the topic explains the problem and the solution very nicely and clearly. Thumbs Up 🙂 .

  • Arun Ramaraj April 21, 2017 Reply

    Wow, Well articulated to reach to individuals like me who don’t know about all the steps involved & what it takes when it comes to OTP. Superb !!!

  • Augustine Paul Samuel April 21, 2017 Reply

    It is very well articulated Baskar. It will break free from the available OTP solutions and excel as a beacon.
    My two cents – The AI approach has to be cautious, the massive amount of data (structured or unstructured) collected will be modeled within the limitations. The learning can shine light on undreamed of behavior & solution with a limitation that can it can go dark of expected behavior. Also, Human resource is a key factor in OTP, if human resource fails the solution should be able to escalate to next level and get the appropriate resource assigned.

    • Baskar Rengaiyan April 22, 2017 Reply

      I propose a system driven by the ‘system’. AI helps the human associated with OTP to have more informed decision. Wherever the ‘sense’ of delay can be controlled in advance. I will write more in coming days on how to operationalise this. Thanks, Augustine.

  • Pavankumar Prabhu April 21, 2017 Reply

    Great post Baskar! You have shown us future. Nicely explained on OTP and various factors affecting that. Great product for airlines to get popularity and to save cost for any delay. It would be interesting to see how AI and RPA evolve Airport Operations.

  • Srinilay April 21, 2017 Reply

    Bhasker as you mentioned AI based solution is perfect to achive the OTP in Airline industry. OTP is a bencmark to decide success rate of the Airlines.

  • MANJUNATH April 21, 2017 Reply

    Nice Article Bhaskar! I learnt new concept and information!

  • DHEENATHAYALAN OVILRAJ April 21, 2017 Reply

    Baskar I’m new to the Airline industry domain but the article is too good and explains all the stage in a very descriptive by pictorial. Expecting more blogs about the Airport operations.

  • Naveen Jayachandra April 22, 2017 Reply

    Good one on RPA. A great insight on the tasks performed from landing to take off and scope of improvisation.

  • Bala April 22, 2017 Reply

    Very neatly compiled article. I like the manner in which you clubbed AI, SLC, RPA etc as part of your solution.

  • Deepti Brinda April 24, 2017 Reply

    A very well written article, Baskar. The various pain points causing Airport delays have been clearly identified and the possible solution has been put forward articulately.

  • Sam Henry April 24, 2017 Reply

    Great article Baskar. I think we didn’t have effective solutions in this area till now because no one looked at it at a holistic view. But with the way this solution looks at the entire problem at a holistic view combined with using automation and real time data, it is going to change the airline industry and will be a great boon for airlines.

  • Bhavaniprasad Rao April 27, 2017 Reply

    Bhaskar… a well written article… clearly articulating the views with data and analysis …..would expect more from you

  • Madhavan Srinivasan May 2, 2017 Reply

    Nice one, Baskar. You have provided lot of information here and it is well articulated. Good to know the basics which includes the different attributes that can cause delays, the different stages of flight, the list that depicts the duration of each activities. These three are very much informative. Super!!! 🙂

  • Vijayakumar C May 18, 2017 Reply

    Good one Baskar, Please give some info about Dr.Jason in your next article, like if he has any blog,websites,etc

  • Rajesh Prabhu. R May 25, 2017 Reply

    Very well explained Baskar.

Leave a Reply