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Inside the easyJet nerve centre


Here in the Operations Control Centre (OCC), we are at the heart of operation and we are passionate about trying to maintain our on-time performance (OTP), safely and efficiently.

There are a number of functions within the OCC that are all designed to work with each other to help deliver you safely and quickly to your destination. These include Flight Operations where we manage the flying programme on a daily basis to minimise disruption, Crewing where we manage the crews on board your aircraft, Flight Planning who look after the route your flight takes, Operations Planning who plan which aircraft are assigned to which route on a particular day, Maintenance Operations Control who deal with both crews and engineers on the ground to assess and fix any problems that an aircraft may encounter and Airport Liaison and Disruption Teams who communicate with our handling agents on the ground and manage Flight Tracker for live updates to your flight.

Here in OCC we operate 24/7, 365 days a week to ensure that we operate a safe, operation and ensure we deliver great on-time performance. We operate on a 12 hour shift pattern and we are responsible for looking after every one of our 762 scheduled routes to 137 airports in 31 countries with a fleet of 241 Airbus aircraft.

Our live system allows us to follow your flight on a stage by stage basis to allow greater oversight into what is going on. Your flight (known as a sector) is shown as a block in our system. These blocks change colour to indicate if you are taxing to the runway, airborne, landed, taxiing to the gate or pulled on to stand. This allows us to scan up and down the flying programme quickly and efficiently to ensure that you are departing and arriving on time. And when you don't, we have a few different communication methods to find out first-hand what is going on with your flight and enable us to analyse any problems that do occur to work out a plan to rectify any disruption quickly and efficiently. This includes, phones, email and our messaging service to the aircraft called ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) which is a tool that allows us to send a text message to the aircraft computer to talk to the crew and allows them to do the same with us.

We can manipulate the flying programme to ensure that all of the sectors associated with an aircraft for that day (sometimes it can be as many as 10 individual sectors per day) are on time. In our peak flying day during the year, we operate close to 1600 sectors each carrying between 156 and 180 passengers per sector (assuming all aircraft are full).

We are in constant communication with our crews, engineers and airport handling companies to try and ensure that everything runs on time. Not only do we utilise spare aircraft and gaps in the programme to ensure everything runs to schedule, we also can request things like priority turnarounds for aircraft or crews to add a small amount of fuel on board when refuelling to allow them to fly faster than we usually would. As well as the flight crew liaising with Air Traffic Control, OCC can speak with airports to request small shortcuts en route or to airport approaches that shave time off your journey and allow us to make up any lost time.

We monitor the weather constantly, and one of the main roles of the Operations Communications Officer is to talk to the MetOffice in the morning and get a forecast for Europe for the day and to highlight any hotspots that may affect the operation, such as thunderstorms, low visibility, snow and high winds. If we see any hotspots we communicate that with the crew operating into those airports to let them know that we've already identified potential problems and agree a plan with the crew to ensure we give you the best chance of getting to your destination on time and safely. This may include the crew taking extra fuel to wait for a weather window opening at the destination, or sometimes tactically delaying a flight and isolating that delay, by manipulating the flying programme around it, to ensure we give you the best chance of getting to your destination and not somewhere else that you don't want to be. We also use a live weather map that includes a traffic light system for current weather and the forecast later in the day so we can monitor all of our destinations quickly and efficiently. During the winter months, we have our own dedicated MetOffice forecaster on site with us in OCC who can answer any questions we have or the crew have. 

Within easyJet, we have a stringent safety policy that means we never compromise. Sometimes our aircraft do experience technical problems which our colleagues in Maintenance Operations Control and our engineers on the ground try and fix in a safely and timely manner to minimise any potential disruption. We therefore rely on the information from them and the crews to allow us to make the right decision to minimise the impact on the flying programme. Any impact that a technical problem does have is kept to a minimum by manipulating the programme around by utilising any spare aircraft we have, and any gaps in the programme. Sometimes we have to send our spare aircraft around the network to rescue aircraft with longer term problems or are unavailable due to planned maintenance.

 
Our main priority is always getting you to your destination safely and I hope that I have given you an insight into some of the thousands of decisions we make on a daily basis to get you to your destination safely and as close to on time as possible. No decision is taken lightly as there is always a knock on impact, but be rest assured that decisions are taken with your overall welfare as a priority over anything else.



By Ross Sample
Operations Officer
easyJet

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