Envoy Spotlight: Crew Scheduling

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Imagine a house of cards stacked to the ceiling. Each card has been meticulously placed so that the tower stays upright.

Scheduling pilots and flight attendants for an airline is like that house of cards, in which each scheduler plays their part in staffing every flight, explains Program Manager Zack Hall.

“With every round of bad weather, air traffic control delay, or an aircraft needing to go to maintenance, the bottom card is flicked out of the stack and the rest of the schedule can quickly follow,” says Zack.

The strength of Envoy’s Crew Scheduling team lies in its ability to rebuild that house of cards with expert precision and speed. Most importantly, these professionals maintain a focus on safety, work to build strong relationships, and ensure they follow all airline rules and labor agreements.

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“Mini Wall Street”

Staying in line with these regulations is a big part of Crew Scheduling’s overall function; that being to assign the appropriate pilots and flight attendants to crew the flights and aircraft that operate the flight schedule. It’s also their job to react quickly when those schedules are interrupted.

When weather in Chicago strands a crewmember who is bound for Dallas or there’s a delay in flights that pushes past their allowable duty day, it’s Crew Scheduling’s duty to find a qualified replacement crewmember to keep the flight on track.

Crew Scheduling is a 24-hour operation, and the fast-paced nature of the job requires a six-to-eight-week training period to ensure the candidate will be a good fit for the demanding position.

“A successful scheduler can’t be easily rattled,” Zack says. “It’s like a professional quarterback, a paramedic or a chef in a popular restaurant – they have to be able to multi-task, stay cool under pressure and be confident in their decisions.”

As a department, Crew Scheduling is responsible for communicating with Envoy dispatchers, chief pilots, flight service managers and the pilots and flight attendants themselves. Zack describes a busy day in the office like a “mini Wall Street” with phones ringing, people talking non-stop and deadlines approaching from every angle.

To an outsider, looking into the Envoy Systems Operation Control center – the nerve center of the airline – it can seem hectic and intimidating. But to a scheduler on the inside, it’s business as usual.

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Rolling along

It takes every team within the airline to ensure a successful operation, and Crew Scheduling is no different. They are tasked with meeting deadlines, keeping flights properly staffed and making sure the crews are happy in the safest and most responsible manner possible.

Envoy’s Crew Scheduling department has been able to meet these tasks despite all the usual challenges, says Director of Crew Services John Dixon.

“We’re opening bases and taking on new airplanes,” says John. “We’re facing all the issues and challenges that come with that, and we just keep rolling along. Our operating statistics are consistently performing at the top of the regional airline industry.”

Affecting these stats is the department’s ability and flexibility – running the gamut from swapping crew members on a single flight to handling 300 flight cancellations at once due to a major storm. If they can see the problem before it arises and make the correct decision each time, the better the department performs as a whole.

This is what John calls “consistent professionalism” and it’s what keeps crews happy, in the air and on time.

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Taking care of business

In one 24-hour period, there can be a myriad of challenges to keep crew schedulers busy. That’s why crew schedulers pride themselves in achieving a “zero crew-cancellation” day.

“I think the end of the night — when all our flights are safely where they need to be with no crew delays — is the most rewarding for us,” says Zack, who has worked in Envoy Crew Scheduling for 18 years. “The best part is when we know that we’ve done our job right.”

Years of experience and sharp decision making in a fast-paced environment is what makes Envoy’s Crew Scheduling department one of the best in the airline business, says John Dixon. He has worked with American Eagle and Envoy for nearly 30 years, holding multiple positions from ground handling to information technology, and has seen what it takes to be successful in this business.

“On the crew side and on the business side, we’re working for the same goal,” John says. “That’s to ensure every flight runs on time and provides the best travel experience for the customer. Not just two weeks of high performance, but a consistent day-to-day performance. That’s the definition of professionalism.”