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Attention now turns to the staff allocated to the IOC with specific responsibility for managing the daily operations of the airline. The various functional areas explained above are accountable to the Duty Manager on shift, but they are also accountable within their own domains (i.e., to their own management team).
IOC Duty Manager
Overseeing the IOC is the Duty Manager, or some equivalent title. Essentially, this role is the most senior person on shift each day, in turn accountable to senior management in the IOC for the conduct of the airline’s operations every day on a 24/7 basis. Bearing in mind the relationships indicated in Figure 2.1, this is the lead role with the authority for ensuring that the performance of each function within the IOC contributes capably and meaningfully to the overall operational performance and required deliverables. To achieve this, a high degree of astuteness and nous is needed to harness the considerable range of expertise residing in the component areas, given that the ability to build and maintain close working relationships is essential. This expertise is in high demand especially in times of significant disruption, where the problems are complex, time is often in short supply, decisions are of high impact, and the nature of the working environment is tense to say the least. At times, the situation may call for the Duty Manager’s role to become that of an arbitrator, should collaborative but competing demands produce a deadlocked situation. On occasions like these, the role focuses on synergising the efforts, encouraging, empathising, perhaps placating where necessary, but most importantly providing strong leadership and clear direction. The role is truly on the front line.
Attention is now focused upon the Operations Control staff specifically; that is, those responsible for making the myriad operational decisions. Subject to the jurisdiction of the country in which the airline is operating, many of the functions of the Operations Controller and Dispatcher are common, and may be performed by one or the other. In the immediately following sections, the characteristics and functions of each are considered in some detail. Any duplication does not take away from the fact that several tasks need to be performed and it will quickly become apparent that some functions cross over to an extent. Beyond these two roles, synopses of other roles in the IOC are described.
The nature ofthe Operations Controller (or Network Controller) role calls for a suitably skilled individual capable of performing in a high-pressure, fast paced, and complex environment. There are numerous systems and tools at hand to assist, as well as manuals, training engagements and other means for supporting the role. But even equipped with a multitude of resources, it is an extremely difficult and frustratingly long process to teach and train individuals how to be successful in the disruption- management role in order to master the techniques required for solving complex problems. This section explores the role and responsibilities in greater detail and focuses on the necessary characteristics and attributes of the individual to perform in an IOC, before considering the more managerial objectives of recruitment, selection and training.
To avoid repetition and consolidate the various positions within the Operations Control function, the term ‘role’ takes into account a number of positions that fall within the Operations Control set of tasks. Thus, using this interpretation, the role described below includes some tasks undertaken by the Duty Manager, but encapsulates the tasks of the Senior Controller, Controller, Supporting Controller, and Operations Officer (or similar terms to distinguish between the various levels of personnel). In essence, the role is to monitor, control and coordinate activities associated with delivering the published schedule on a day-to- day basis for the airline’s network. Operational management in the IOC includes activities related to normal and irregular operations (including crisis or emergency management), having a clear focus on the needs of customers but considering the various desired commercial and operational objectives and constraints.
Taking into consideration the inclusive titles above, the main responsibilities of the Operations Controller role are extensive. Controllers are responsible primarily for airline operational performance, encompassing the meeting of specific targets (e.g., on-time performance, efficiency, productivity) and in doing so, ensuring they adhere to regulatory requirements, airline policies and any workplace agreements. On a daily basis, more specifically, they are responsible for monitoring the actual aircraft movements (including pre-departure, departure, en-route progress and arrival), identifying variances to schedule, and resolving any problems accordingly to mitigate any potential or actual effects on the network. They are also responsible for communicating both internally within the IOC and externally, and across any level required. They must ensure that any communications received can be readily understood, interpreted and applied to a situation as necessary. Equally important is the necessity to disseminate information to key players. In addition to broadcasting decisions or advice, this may at times imply selective filtering of specific detail or judicious timing for the release of information subject to the nature of an event. Their responsibilities may extend actively to planning fleet commitments, negotiating slot times, coordinating route and overflight clearances, and organising other approvals.