10 Trip Planning Considerations for Aircraft Schedulers and Dispatchers
There are many important elements that need to be considered to make an international trip run smoothly from an aircraft Scheduler and Dispatcher point of view. Challenges range from setting up international flight permits, to fuel planning, to developing effective programs, to dealing with an ever-increasing assortment of international regulatory compliance issues. That being said, there are some helpful actions that can apply to both private non-revenue or charter (non-scheduled commercial) flights. As you develop your checklists for trips, these tips will help you deal with the challenges you’ll face at every stage of an international mission.
1. Confirming crew/passenger documentation
Be aware of various visa, vaccination, crew and passenger passport requirements and crew documentation needs (pilot licenses, medical certificates, etc.). Having this information in advance can help smooth the planning stage and clearance at destination. Also consider characteristics for each location. Customs pre-clearance or visas on arrival may be available at certain destinations, while at others, you may be required to provide special insurance documentation, or “sponsor letters,” in order to obtain permits.
2. Checking aircraft documentation
Many countries require additional documentation for aircraft operating through their airspace and to their destinations. Some examples of these types of documents are specific insurance, maintenance logs, noise certificate and registration certificate, which should all be scanned in advance for easy access. Understanding requirements and assembling all documentation in advance can help avoid delays in securing permits and in arranging ground handling and parking.
3. Orchestrating crew/passenger hotel and ground transport
In some locations, such as in northern Mexico, security can be especially important when arranging ground transportation. In addition to location, timing is also important: During busy events, such as the Olympic Games, Davos World Economic Forum or the summer season at popular Mediterranean destinations, there may be limited choices in acceptable hotels. In these cases, advanced planning becomes even more critical. For the same busy time periods or popular destinations, transportation might be more difficult to arrange. When operators make last-minute requests that are impossible to accommodate due to the unavailability of hotels or ground transportation in particular markets, this can lead to complex last-minute schedule changes. For this reason, we always recommend hotel rooms and transportation be booked as far in advance as possible. This affords the operator more choices and in many cases better pricing than can be obtained with last-minute bookings.
4. Considering airport suitability
When trying to decide if a destination needs to be changed, take into account Notices to Airmen, whether the preferred airport is an Airport of Entry (AOE), curfews and convenience. There may be issues to consider in terms of customs, operating times and closures. A good example is operating from Nassau, Bahamas (MYNN) to Congonhas, Sao Paulo, Brazil (SBSP). As SBSP is not an AOE, you will have to land first at Guarulhos, Sao Paulo, Brazil (SBGR), or at another airport of entry where customs/immigration can be cleared.
5. Understanding parking limitations and restrictions
Request aircraft parking, slots and Prior Permission Requireds (PPRs) as early as possible, so confirmations can be secured. The earlier you make your request, the better slots and parking you’ll be able to obtain. At some airfields, you’ll encounter parking restrictions with on-the-ground limitations of 3-72 hours. In some cases, you may be limited to drop-and-go’s or limited hours of operation. At certain locations, it may be difficult to reschedule parking, slots and PPRs on short notice. Consider how this may impact your operational flexibility.
6. Requesting overflight and landing permits early
Depending on your destinations and route of flight, permits may be required. Consider lead time requirements, validity of permits and operating “windows,” as well as documentation needs for overflight and landing permits. It also might be advantageous to obtain permits for alternate routes (a Plan “B”) for the day of operation. An experienced 3rd-party provider can provide you with permit deadlines and all documentation requirements to help better prepare for the trip. This allows you to inform passengers regarding any potential operating limitations or restrictions that could impact short-notice revisions. Firm up your schedule as early as possible to set up services most efficiently. Many locations will require dates and times in order to process ground handling, slots, parking and other services.
7. Planning for weather and weather adversities
We recommend using full-service weather (as opposed to doing it yourself), as it gives you an advantage in regard to the most efficient route planning and en-route weather updates. This can save both time and money in overall operations management and planning. A full-service weather package helps your crew stay informed and also keeps your passengers updated, especially when alternate destinations must be considered in cases of natural phenomena like typhoons.
8. Being aware of security and geopolitical issues
Geopolitical and security situations can change rapidly. Obtaining security briefs for planned destinations or checking the Web sites of agencies such as the U.S Department of State and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office will help you better prepare for the safety of your aircraft, crew and passengers. Vetting vendors and support providers is also an important consideration. Also, developing international crisis preparation and management plans can be helpful in order to know what to do before things go wrong.
9. Evaluating jet fuel availability and contract pricing
At times, there may be issues with fuel availability due to strikes or perhaps high demand at island locations. There can also be issues with fuel contamination. You can subscribe to our weekly e-mail newsletter to help you identify some of these fuel availability issues.
Plan fuel uplifts and fuel credit in advance for all intended destinations. With advance arrangement, contract fuel pricing can be obtained at outlying locations. To minimize overall fuel costs, consider tech stop options, strategic tankering of fuel and opportunities for fuel tax exemption at the pump, particularly in Europe.
10. Considering regulatory compliance issues
International regulatory compliance has become a larger and more complex issue in recent years. It’s important to develop an effective international compliance program to avoid running into problems. Having a safety management system is now required when operating in International Civil Aviation Organization airspace. Flight departments also need to consider the European Union Emissions Trading System reporting mandates when operating to the EU. Additionally, risks of violating the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, the U.K. Bribery Act, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development Convention, the EU Convention and other anti-bribery laws while operating internationally have become a larger concern, as enforcement of these regulations is on the increase.
Planning a successful international trip can be challenging due to a multitude of details to consider. Aircraft Schedulers and Dispatchers have the responsibility to stay informed about changes in the aviation industry. Begin planning international missions as early as possible and consider working with an experienced 3rd-party provider to help guide you through requirements, complexities and differences at each destination.
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