By the time you hop onto your aircraft, drink in hand and ready to settle in for your flight, you might stop to think about your dedicated, local team that helped prepare for your trip. They provided the quote and made sure the terminal and the jet itself were ready – but do you ever wonder what else happens behind the scenes? Let us introduce you to the world of flight operations.
Each department works together like so many moving parts in a Rube Goldberg machine: before a trip can be planned, detailed planning goes on behind the scenes in the Client Services, Charter, and Crew Coordination departments. These processes take place simultaneously, and all flow together to make each trip a reality. “Prior to a trip taking place, Client Services quotes pricing for trips to Jet Linx Jet Card clients, and trial members,” said Missy Kemp, Client Services and Training Manager. Each trip is quoted based on a generic aircraft size category: Light, Mid, Super-Mid, or Heavy. “Additionally, each Client Services department receives aircraft owners’ trip schedules.” When the owners’ trips are scheduled, other departments begin their pre-trip processes for those flights, including planning any needed maintenance events, crew scheduling, or wholesale trips.
“Our internal Charter team acts as the Client Services team for wholesale clients,” said Erin Donnelly, Director of Fleet Optimization & Operator Relations. While Jet Linx does not offer retail charter flights to end users, this team markets availability and takes incoming requests from the wholesale market. These flights create revenue for aircraft owners to offset the cost of aircraft ownership. One difference is that the charter team generates quotes for the exact aircraft, not just the size category. “A charter request is usually more along the lines of, ‘I need a Hawker 800XP in this location,” Donnelly explained. This team relies heavily on the scheduling board in the flight operations system, or FOS. Everything related to an aircraft’s schedule is stored in FOS, from planned flights to maintenance events and crew availability.
ONE OF THE BENEFITS OF A JET CARD IS THAT YOU HAVE THAT GUARANTEE. IF YOU WANT TO LEAVE AT 10 A.M., YOU CAN DO THATMissy Kemp
“Crew days off are approved and posted to the schedule board by the 20th day of the previous month,” said Josh Carstensen, Crew Coordination Manager. Since pilots aren’t on a regular Monday through Friday schedule, their days out of the office require a little more planning upfront. For days off in August, for example, crewmembers must make the request by the 15th of July, and they’re then posted and approved by the 20th of July for planning purposes. Aircraft with two and three person crews have their own scheduling systems, and notations follow in the scheduling board. “For three-person crews, we’ll notate who is on duty each day and highlighting any crew swap days,” Carstensen said. “That’s important, because if we have a three-day trip that’s over a crew swap day where one crewmember is going off-duty and the other is coming on, that helps the Charter and Fleet Optimization departments know what they can schedule that aircraft for. Proper notice helps everyone plan more effectively.”
When a trip is scheduled – whether for a Jet Linx aircraft owner, a Jet Card client, or a wholesale charter customer – a series of events is set into place to ensure that every flight operates at the highest level.
“When a Jet Linx client schedules a trip, Client Services schedules the member trip into a generic aircraft on the operations board, depending on size,” Kemp explained. The generic aircraft in FOS are divided by size (Light, Mid, Super Mid, or Heavy) and contain trip information and preferences. The Client Services teams assigns FBOs (or Fixed Base Operators) and adds passenger names, catering requests, and ground transportation needs. When an aircraft owner schedules a trip, a similar process kicks off – but the trip is scheduled in the actual aircraft in FOS instead of a generic profile. “We also add notes in an area called special handling, which are any special needs for the trip: if there will be a dog on board, the purpose of the trip, if there will be a lap child on board, or something trip-specific that the other departments will need to be aware of,” she continued. Ideally, a firm departure time will be set, but a trip can be scheduled with a more general note of ‘morning’ or ‘8 am to 10 am,’ for example. Jet Card clients are guaranteed aircraft availability 24/7/365, and as such they are able to set firm departure dates and times. “One of the benefits of a Jet Card is that you have that guarantee,” Kemp noted. “If you want to leave at 10 a.m., you can do that. We may have a little more flexibility in scheduling with an aircraft owner.” Aircraft owners make their aircraft available to Jet Card clients, and as such usually allow some flexibility in flight times to make sure the Jet Card trips are accommodated.
Once Client Services has recorded the trip in FOS, Flight Coordination and Fleet Optimization begin working on the trip. “Flight Coordination will check the new trip checklist items required, and Fleet Optimization will begin to look at aircraft options to complete the trip, looking at both in-fleet and off-fleet options,” Kemp said. “On average, a tail number is assigned three to five days out from the trip. We try to average five days out whenever possible.” If the trip is booked within a week of the departure, Crew Coordination works on assigning crew immediately, while Client Services checks the operations board to see if there is anything that will need further research, whether crew days off or a scheduled maintenance event.
The world of Flight Operations
ABOVE: Jet Linx Senior Client Services Specialist Carla White often sits with the team members in Flight Coordination or Charter to ensure optimal communication among the teams. The Client Services team at the National Operations Center works to train local Base teams and provide operational support from a national level.
Wholesale Charter trips operate in a similar fashion to client and owner trips, with a few key differences. A specific aircraft is booked when the trip is booked, the way owner trips are booked. “When we receive a signed contract or quote, each quote has a list of rules or policies to follow,” Donnelly said. “And because we are booking specific aircraft, some aircraft require owner release and some require the Base be notified when the trip is booked.” At times, a Base may choose to decline a wholesale trip: for example, if they’ve received an influx in requests for Midsize aircraft and the trip is for the last Mid available at that time, or if they are waiting for the owner to schedule a trip at that time.
When the trip is scheduled, the Charter team puts as much detail in the trip as possible – and when requested, will arrange ground transportation for the wholesale clients. At that point, the Flight Coordination department performs the same new trip checklist as for Jet Card clients and aircraft owners, and the team starts looking for a crew to fly the trip. “At time of booking, Charter is working with Crew Coordination to make sure we’ve got a qualified flight crew,” Donnelly explained. Just as Jet Linx requires any off-fleet vendors to meet our safety requirements, others want to ensure that our pilots meet their standards. “We want to make sure that we’ve got the appropriate crew available.” The Operations Outlook team in Flight Coordination starts reviewing the trip when it’s scheduled – whether it takes place in two months or in two hours. “We
The Operations Outlook team in Flight Coordination starts reviewing the trip when it’s scheduled – whether it takes place in two months or in two hours. “We follow the same checklist items for every trip,” said Meric Reese, Flight Coordination Manager. “We look at permits, reservations, runway requirements, curfews, FBOs and capabilities, NOTAMs and anything affecting the trip, aircraft performance – although that can be difficult with member trips when we don’t know what aircraft is booked yet.” The team reviews crew duty times and advises Client Services and Charter of maximum crew duty time trips. For international trips, the team also verifies operations to the country and checks for handling, customs, and any needed permits.
A flight risk assessment is completed, including a review of risk levels and operational issues, and the team finds solutions to mitigate the factors. “We review any of these action items with the Fleet Optimization, Client Services, or Charter teams so alternate plans can be put into place prior to the trip and we provide the best service level we possibly can,” he explained. “For example, if we schedule a flight into Aspen at night when it is a day-only airport, we would be able to go back to the customer and adjust those times the best we can.”
THE DAY OF THE TRIP
On the day of the trip, Flight Coordination completes one final checklist, verifying that nothing has changed weather, crew duty times, and NOTAMs are all included. “We re-review the flight risk assessment and acknowledge it, as do the crew,” Reese said. The crew is required to report to the departure airport 90 minutes prior to the scheduled departure, or 60 minutes for empty legs or on duty days over 12 hours. “The expectation on live legs with a 90-minute show is for crewmembers to be ready to depart 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure,” Carstensen explained. “This timeframe allows for preflight inspections, fueling and final flight plans or clearance preparations and any cabin or catering items required are also handled during that time.”
At one hour prior to the scheduled departure time, the crew reports into Flight Following that both pilots are on site and ready to go. “Any and all flight details are reviewed with Flight Following and confirmed: this includes that the catering requested is on board, alternate plans – if you have a runway performance issue and it wasn’t resolved until that day, things like that are discussed at that time,” Carstensen said.
Flight Following takes over once all reviews are complete. One of Flight Coordination’s duties, team members are dedicated to Flight Following each day. “We update everyone on any delays, EDCT (Expect Departure Clearance Times) issues, or flow control programs,” Reese said. “We advise Client Services or the Charter team on what kind of delays we’re expecting and what alternate route or airport due to weather.” Over the recent holiday season, for example, some airports were overwhelmed because of the number of airplanes going there, and holding patterns or diversions came into play: the Flight Following team makes sure that all players are aware of any issues. “We make sure the aircraft is going to the correct FBO, the catering is in place, and we’ve got ground transportation needs addressed,” Reese noted. “Finally, the Flight Following team will address any sentiment from the crew and/ or the passengers on how the flight actually went at the end of each leg.” This allows Jet Linx to take every opportunity to improve service internally and externally. The Flight Following duties include four major points: making sure the crew has reported in-position within 15 minutes of their deadline, making sure the flight has departed within 15 minutes of the planned departure time, rereleasing any flights delayed over 60 minutes, and monitoring the aircraft in flight. “If we’re set to leave by 9 o’clock and we haven’t left by 9:15, we’re going to call the crew to find out what’s going on: are the passengers late or is there a problem with the aircraft,” Reese said. At that point, Flight Following will let Charter or Client Services know of any issues or changes to plans. “If the delay is over 60 minutes for a departure time, it usually means that Flight Coordination has to re-release our flight, which means all of our dayof and flight restriction checklists have to be redone.” Once the flight takes off, the team tracks the aircraft’s progress throughout the flight. “We monitor it from wheels up to wheels down to make sure the aircraft is going to the correct place. Any deviations – caused by anything from weather or maintenance to in-flight emergencies – we take immediate action to know what’s happening.”
WE WANT TO USE [THE SIO PROCESS] TO MEASURE CLIENT SENTIMENT, BOTH GOOD AND BAD.
When the airplane lands, the crew checks in with Flight Following and reports that the aircraft is safely on the ground at the correct destination: the crew has the same 15-minute window to check in, or Flight Following will call the crew for details. “At this point we ask how the passengers are doing, how the crew’s doing, ask if there were any issues with the aircraft and any feedback they can give us on how the trip went,” Reese explained. The crew completes post-leg and post-trip duties, including updating Flight Coordination with any feedback, reporting any discrepancies to maintenance, and tidying up and restocking the aircraft. “This helps us prepare if there’s a trip scheduled in the aircraft for the next day,” Carstensen explained. “We get all the information gathered, and that helps us know if we need to call Maintenance or get an overnight cleaning done, and to do what we can to mitigate any delays for the next day.” The crew logs post-flight times into FOS mobile, or provides times to Flight Coordination over the phone if they are unable to input the times. “That allows us to accurately determine crew duty time and verify crew duty time and flight time, from a regulation standpoint,” Reese said.
After the trip, feedback from the crew and passengers is reviewed in an in-depth process for Service Improvement Opportunities (SIOs). “The process can really be started at any point in time, but the day of is when most of these opportunities – whether there’s a negative, neutral, or positive impact on a flight – are going to be created,” Donnelly explained. The process was created to have a tracking method for each flight, and to share information more freely across the entire company. “It’s meant to be updated and give real-time updates on the progress and conclusion,” she continued. “We want to use it to measure client sentiment, both good and bad. We also have a monthly meeting that [Kemp] runs with NOC and Base team members.” The meeting reviews anything that could be considered a negative – even something that may not have had an impact on the specific flight in questions, but that could affect a future flight, like a late positioning. “We can learn from any potential missteps,” Donnelly explained. She emphasized the importance of real-time updates for the SIO process, because a solution can only help a future flight if all team members are aware of what the solution is. “If something happens at 9 a.m. that is resolved at 10 a.m. but it’s not updated until 6 p.m., the process is really useless to us.”
The Client Services team greets the flight, and will do a follow-up call for any feedback and to check in on any SIOs. They then complete the billing process, and work to prepare the invoice for accounting. “Charter does very similar things,” Donnelly explained. “They follow up with the broker and get any feedback on how the flight went, verifying times and getting the invoicing ready.” Fleet Optimization prepares invoices for off-fleet vendors.
The expert teams at Jet Linx analyze every aspect of each trip to make sure that each one is performed as smoothly as possible. Each piece falls into place in a meticulously calibrated pattern, following FAA regulations and our own company best practices. While there are still aspects of every flight that can’t be controlled – like the weather – it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.
The world of Flight Operations
ABOVE: Cole Fraber, a Jet Linx Charter Sales Specialist, works on the team responsible for helping sell excess lift. The charter department works exclusively with wholesale partners, as Jet Linx reserves use of its fleet first and foremost for aircraft owners and Jet Card clients.
From Start to Finish
Ensuring safe and efficient flight operations is an expectation for every Jet Linx trip. How does our team do it? Through expert teamwork and clear steps for each part of the process between time of scheduling and the day of the trip.
Check out these milestones along the way.
SEVEN DAYS PRIOR TO THE TRIP
- Crew Coordination assigns the crew, considering crew qualifications, rest, and duty time
- Flight Coordination reviews the flight – the same checklist as when the trip is booked
- Usually covering general information
- Jet Card client trips may have tentative departure time
- Jet Card client trips may not have a specific aircraft assigned yet
72 HOURS PRIOR TO THE TRIP
- Flight Coordination reviews the flight – with more detailed information: an aircraft is usually assigned at this point, and long-range weather forecasts are available
24 HOURS PRIOR TO THE TRIP
- Flight Coordination reviews the flight
- Specific weather information is available
- Pilot crew duty time from the day prior to the trip is reviewed to ensure proper duty time & rest requirements
- “Ops review,” including master summary of any potential for changing details, is sent to internal teams
- Fleet Optimization works through details with off-fleet partners
- Client Services reviews flight information with Jet Card clients and aircraft owners
- Maintenance teams approve the airworthiness for each trip
- Pilots officially accept the trip after receiving a flight brief
- Flight Coordination and crew review outstanding operational questions, like weather, runway limitations, or NOTAMs (Notice to All Airmen, with timely information for the flight)
- Passenger count or airport changes require a new crew brief from Flight Coordination