Flight School Article – July 19, 2019

How Flight Training Schools Can Save Money

 

Having worked in the flight training industry for the past 18 years in both general aviation and airlines I have come to realize the many challenges flight schools have in being profitable.

The biggest costs that I have noticed of any flight schools are the acquisition and maintenance of aircraft as well as staff wages & benefits. Other costs factors are: fuel, insurance, marketing,  rent, professional fees, utilities, office supplies and all infra-structure related costs. As a school owner/operator you should always be looking for places to save money. What are they? Cheaper fuel? Cheaper insurance? Reduce wages? Reduce your aircraft fleet?

By far, I believe the most important potential factor for cost reduction in operating a flight school is your most valuable assets, your aircraft. Reducing your aircraft fleet is your best method to cut your costs. Having less aircraft means less insurance, less bank payments and also less maintenance. Aircraft not flying still costs money for calendar parts, certifications, parking etc.

The question you need to ask yourself is how can I reduce my fleet while maintaining my level of service to my customers?

The majority of flight schools do have a possibility by simply having an optimal flight schedule. Having back to back bookings from sunrise to sunset is the ideal scenario for any flight schools but this is difficult to achieve.

The majority of flight schools and aircraft rental organisations retain a given fleet size to ensure they can meet the demand for peak times during the day.

If you are able to reduce your fleet size by offloading peak flying hours (ie. 10:00 to 15:00) to early morning or late afternoon this will help to spread the load throughout the day. How can your flight school achieve this? In my experience customers need to be given an incentive to book those hours of the day or to pick an empty timeslot between two existing bookings. Keeping track of incentives can become a nightmare if done manually. A good scheduling program should be able to schedule flight training bookings as well as manage automatically customer incentives in a way to maximize aircraft utilization.

Another way to maximize your utilization is to stagger your flights in a way so that as soon as the aircraft comes in (keys in) it can go back out right away (keys out), students and instructors need to be ready when the keys out event occurs. To stagger flights, bookings needs to be broken down in terms of the different events that occurs within a booked flight, for example: a) student shows up at school b) instructor and student get together to talk about the training session c) flight planning may be needed d) aircraft is signed off and dispatched e) aircraft is inspected (walk-around) and f) the aircraft starts, Hobbs ON, revenue is generated. So by breaking down a flight booking event we can now stagger flights in a way that we can have students and instructors performed their tasks without the aircraft being available. Once their tasks are completed only then do we need the aircraft to be available.

Another way to ensure an optimal daily flight schedule is to minimize gaps non-revenue time-slots ie. no booking between flights. If there are gaps to be created you want them to be big enough to fit the highest probability of filling up perfectly that gap with another booking. I call this Intelligent Gapping, doing this manually would be impossible as calculations of highest probability of future bookings to fill that gap would be too difficult. Only a computer with fast processing capabilities can calculate the highest probability of filling a gap perfectly, resulting  minimal down time. Having computer software take control of all incoming booking requests of your flight training schedule sounds radical but it is nothing new in the airline ticketing world (ie. purchasing a ticket to fly to Hawaii). Specialized computer ticket reservations software have been developed since the internet surfaced so to ensure aircraft seats are full as much as possible for a given flight. In fact, the algorithms that airlines use are so sophisticated that chances of two people wanting the same flight  (ie. same departure/arrival) will have a different price. Airline prices are derived by dates, time of day, location of the computer where the reservation inquiry is from (country, region, city), time of day the inquiry is made, weather at destination, special events at the destination, demand from other customers, direct routes (legs ie. flights that has multiple legs to your destination) and your search history.

Is it possible to have a customer incentive program in the flight training industry? Absolutely.

The only way an incentive program can exist for flight training is by having a computer automated software to manage all incoming bookings similar to online airlines/travel ticketing portals such as Expedia, Travelocity etc.  With a customer incentive program managed by software, gap filling (non revenue timeslots) becomes possible, flight bookings early in the morning and late afternoon becomes possible, staggering of flights becomes possible. This should be the goal of all flight schools.

Having an optimized flight schedule is great but another aspect for flight schools to save money is by being efficient in operating those aircraft. Again, having a specialized computer software that tracks maintenance and aircraft refuelling/servicing is ideal. A good software should understand the business of flight training operations and by being so will impose in some way a methodology for staff to follow and procedures for being efficient.

 

Stephane Way is CEO of North Orca Technologies developers of SkedMax.com