Tips for Aviation Schedulers & Dispatchers: Top Trip-Planning Considerations
Within corporate flight departments, schedulers and dispatchers continue to assume more and more responsibility. Route and documentation planning, access to airspace and airports, and managing risk in disruptive weather situations are just some of the critical flight department functions requiring scheduler and dispatcher oversight. Also, as the regulatory environment becomes increasingly complex, and safety and risk management require additional attention, schedulers and dispatchers are seeing their responsibilities evolve.
Below are some functional areas in which schedulers and dispatchers are involved, as well as some tips and tricks for helping to address each area.
1. Trip-planning checklists
With a tightening regulatory environment worldwide and more items to consider for a trip, pre-planning trip checklists used by schedulers and dispatchers have substantially grown in length from just a few years ago. Typically, the longer the international trip, the more complex it will be. In most cases pre-planning checklist items are more involved for charter (non-scheduled commercial) than for private non-revenue flights. To help you keep track of all the requirements for your next trip, try this Pre-Trip Review Checklist.
2. Airport suitability and alternates
There are many issues to consider in terms of airport and alternate suitability. Airport suitability is of greater concern worldwide due to increased congestion. Step one is to be aware of runway condition and performance suitability, if the location is an airport of entry, and what the best alternate airports may be. In some cases you’ll select airports depending on the nature of the stop: tech or overnight. It’s important to always consider parking restrictions; prior permission required mandates; airport slots; Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) availability; and lead times to obtain services at planned destinations.
3. Special events and circumstances
When large or special events take place – including major sporting events, film festivals, political/economics summits, etc. – certain airports reach a saturation point in terms of congestion. Alternate airports for parking may need to be considered months in advance.
If you’re traveling with weapons, ammunition, or pets onboard, there’ll be special approvals and additional documentation to consider early into the trip planning process. Here’s some additional reading on this:
- Bringing Hunting Weapons Onboard a Business Aircraft – What You Should Know
- Understanding International Restrictions for Bringing Pets Onboard a Business Aviation Flight
4. Crew accommodation and transportation
In many cases schedulers and dispatchers are responsible for arranging crew accommodation and transportation. Considerations here include safe and vetted accommodation and transportation options, rate caps, and security planning. Particularly during high-season or special event periods, be aware of extended hotel cancellation and nonrefundable room policies, especially if passengers tend to revise schedules frequently. Also, make sure you provide hotels with loyalty program information for your crew. Here’s some additional reading on hotels:
- General Guidelines for Arranging Hotels as Part of a Business Aviation Trip
- 9 Ways Business Aircraft Operators Can Maximize Their Hotel Points Earnings
- BizAv Tips for World Events and Holidays: Hotel Accommodations
5. Fuel considerations
Fuel quotes are obtained by either schedulers/dispatchers or flight crews, depending on the flight department. We’re seeing schedulers and dispatchers taking on more responsibility in this area, as flight crew members may not have the time available to negotiate and obtain the best fuel pricing and options.
Try this Jet Fuel Quote Checklist to compare fuel prices you receive from different providers. For other insights on purchasing jet fuel, including pre-planning and exempting value-added tax at the pump, you can browse fuel-related articles on our blog.
6. In-flight catering
Schedulers and dispatchers are often responsible for monitoring in-flight catering arrangements for general aviation flights. Considerations in this area involve choosing whether to source catering from in-flight caterers or from hotels and restaurants, food safety, cost, and quality issues. Taking advantage of online menus and using the same catering suppliers at your most frequent destinations can help ensure best catering results. Some additional reading:
- 6 Considerations for Planning In-Flight Catering Orders Pre-Trip
- 6 Common Questions About Ordering In-Flight Catering
- How to Choose the Best In-Flight Catering Options Based on the Length of Your Flight
7. Security planning
It’s always important to be aware of geopolitical concerns and issues at all planned destinations. For example Paris is not normally a high-security-threat location, but recent terror-related events have changed the situation. It’s prudent to take steps to understand all current and potential security issues prior to travel. Obtaining advance security briefs, especially for higher-threat-level countries, allows schedulers and dispatchers to better inform crew members and passengers of risks and additional security arrangements to consider. Even if it’s a destination you’ve traveled to frequently, best practice is to obtain advance security briefs in case there have been security issue changes.
- Security Planning for Business Aviation Travel – Part 1: Pre-Planning
- Security Planning for Business Aviation Travel – Part 2: Vetting and Arranging for Security
8. Aircraft documentation
There are both standard and enhanced aircraft documentation requirements to consider, depending on where you’re operating. Standard aircraft documentation includes airworthiness and registration certificates, worldwide insurance, and noise certificates. Enhanced requirements (at some locations) involve additional or specific format documentation.
For example Germany requires insurance policies to be denominated in special drawing rights rather than USD or other currencies. Hong Kong is particularly strict in terms of insurance coverage format and specific inclusions.
For a Philippines landing permit, you must provide a color photo of your aircraft. In some cases you’ll require specific equipment and/or certifications, such as reduced vertical separation minimum, 8.33 MHz radios, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B). You may also need to submit an aviation security plan, approved safety management system, or maintenance logs in order to secure permits for particular destinations.
9. Crew and passenger information
Crew and passenger information, more than ever, needs to be 100% accurate and complete. If there is incomplete or incorrect information, some locations may fine operators, and CIQ processes may take longer to conclude. In addition to standard requirements of crew licenses/medicals and full passport information, many countries also require passports to have at least six months’ remaining validity. For crew members who travel continually, when possible, it’s recommended to have two passports. One can be used for travel and the other for visa purposes.
10. Permits and lead times
When you request overflight and landing permits, a good rule of thumb is to plan on 10 days’ lead time. When requesting permits, consider if routing information is required and/or local business contacts need to be provided prior to permits being issued. Also, consider if additional information is needed for passengers or crew members – particularly for travel to military or joint-use military airfields. Permit processing time may take longer if sponsor letters and verification of trip purpose are required. Your local sponsor must be aware of who’s onboard, all crew and passengers details, and purpose of trip, which will mean that your sponsor is responsible for operator actions within the country. Civil aviation authorities often contact sponsors to verify this information. Prior to requesting permits for certain countries, such as Mexico and Venezuela, have your 3rd-party provider confirm if you have any navigation fees outstanding. When operating to certain countries with fees outstanding, you may be turned away at the flight information region or, worse, permitted to land and then detained until all unpaid fees are settled.
11. Regulatory considerations
Schedulers and dispatchers are often responsible for carefully researching regulatory restrictions for each trip. The regulatory environment continues to evolve worldwide, and more and more country-specific requirements are being put in place.
For example Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), eAPIS, and CARICOM APIS impact operations in the U.S. and Caribbean, while European Union-Emissions Trading Scheme continues to be a factor to/from Europe. Some countries now require ADS-B for travel within their airspaces, and additional nav equipment mandates are being initiated on North Atlantic Tracks.
You can research and learn more about a number of aviation regulatory issues on our blog.
12. Sanctioned countries
The country in which your aircraft is registered may limit your options to overfly/land at certain countries. Countries under current U.S. sanctions include Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Sudan. Consider, also, company or flight department standard operating procedures and/or insurance policy limitations. These may restrict your operations to/over certain countries. For more information, read through our sanctioned country series.
13. Charter considerations
Trip planning usually involves additional lead time and documentation considerations for charter operations; therefore, schedulers and dispatchers must initiate charter trip planning steps earlier. They may also have to help manage expectations of passengers, particularly when frequent schedule changes are anticipated.
14. Flight plan and weather considerations
Depending on the operation, schedulers and dispatchers may be running flight plans or having them built. Here are a few articles covering some best practice recommendations in this area:
Weather planning in advance of operations – to get a general sense of weather patterns – usually falls to the scheduler or dispatcher, while day-of-operation weather planning and considerations lie mostly with the flight crew.
Schedulers and dispatchers manage both passenger and crew requests and are often the conduit with 3rd-party providers to ensure all services are obtained as needed. These tasks are especially important and can be more challenging, especially when you’re dealing with short-notice trips, last-minute schedule revisions, or planning operations to locations during large event periods. It’s always recommended to ensure that trip preferences and requests are submitted well in advance, to allow sufficient time for all services and clearances to be obtained. Always keep aircraft documentation, along with crew and passenger information, updated with your service provider to avoid any confusion or issues down the line that could lead to operational delays.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.