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The Metrics Of Service

Dissecting service into three components—‘where’ the clients want to go- ‘when’ they want to go- and ‘the way’ they want to achieve the first two attributes—is a valuable method for measuring the effectiveness of your aviation department- notes Pete Agur.

Pete Agur   |   1st September 2012
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Pete Agur Pete Agur

Peter Agur Jr. is Chairman and Founder of VanAllen - a business aviation consultancy firm with...
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The Metrics Of Service:
The challenge of substance over style.
Dissecting service into three components—‘where’ the clients want to go- ‘when’ they want to go- and ‘the way’ they want to achieve the first two attributes—is a valuable method for measuring the effectiveness of your aviation department- notes Pete Agur.

First- let us consider the “Where” issue. Going where the company’s personnel want to travel has a great deal to do with the capabilities of the company’s aircraft. Your equipment will either be a liberator or a constraint- based upon three of its performance metrics.

1. Non-stop flight range: An aircraft’s range is determined by how much fuel it can carry- based on the required passenger and baggage loads. Very few aircraft have the capacity to carry full passenger loads and full fuel.

2. Runway performance: The critical number for runways is how much pavement it takes to accelerate to flight speed and fly away (accelerate- go distance) or accelerate to flight speed and stop on the pavement (accelerate-stop distance). Departing from a runway of less length than either of these data points creates safety risks- and for business jets is in violation of Federal Aviation Regulations.

3. Second segment climb: Once the aircraft has lifted off- it is reconfigured for climb to clear any hills or mountains in its path. If an engine fails- the angle of that climb is greatly reduced. If that angle does not permit obstacle clearance- you have a serious problem. This critical climb calculation is not limited to just the obvious places like the mountains of Colorado. Cincinnati’s Lunken airport has a high river bluff off the end of one of its runways- for example.

It is apparent that the metrics of aircraft performance help to define the “Where” of service.

Your company’s aircraft’s maintenance staff has a huge impact on the “When” of service as a provider of air transportation. By minimizing down time- they have the ability to maximize the number of days your aircraft is available. A relatively young airplane averages about 3% of the year down for routine maintenance (about 10 working days). Your maintenance staff can save a few of those down days by working on weekends or on days when the aircraft is not needed. By such scheduling- passengers are able to go on the company aircraft versus not go- use charter- fractional aircraft- or the airlines.

Speaking of the airlines- the better ones are averaging about 75% of their arrivals within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time. Unlike the airlines- because they are trying to book trips back-to-back to create greater efficiencies and revenues fractional aircraft companies consider customer delays as trip delays.

From the customer’s point of view- a passenger-induced delay is a good thing- because a business aircraft (unlike an airliner) will not depart without its passengers. Thus- coping with passengers delays is a metric demonstrating the flexibility of Business Aviation.

With customer-induced delays taken into consideration- the vendor-induced delays made by fractional companies are about 4% (approximately one out of every 25 legs). The rate of delays on a dedicated aircraft operated by a company aviation department is typically less than 1%.

If that sounds like performance metrics of aviation departments and fractional providers are nearly the same- they are not. Passengers have more than a four times greater chance of being delayed on a fractional aircraft than if they are on your company’s dedicated equipment. Those metrics are important to consider for the “must perform” trips- like Board meetings.

Carrying that point forward- fractional companies have made a strong sales point that ferry legs (i.e.- moving the aircraft without passengers between airports) on company-owned aircraft are wasteful. For normal trips- I can see their point: the marginal cost of a ferry leg plus an occupied leg on a company-owned aircraft is usually more expensive than the fully allocated cost of a fractional occupied leg. But- if it is a “must perform” trip- is the money saved worth the increased risk of delays?

Focusing solely on corporate culture or a passenger’s personal style for service can adversely impact safety. For instance- many passengers feel cabin safety training and routine briefings are a hassle or distraction. But should there be an incident- such as the aircraft departing the runway either during an aborted take-off or an untoward landing- leaving the cabin through emergency exits can become a “first-time” practical test for the passengers. After all- the pilots are located in the nose of the aircraft— the crumple zone- so to speak—so a safe egress for you and your guests may be up to your imagination.

For operators of larger aircraft- cabin service safety becomes a bigger issue. One of our clients told me he did not want a flight attendant on board because he wanted his privacy and he did not want his friends to think he was putting on airs. However- the back of a large cabin aircraft can be a high-risk environment. The cockpit crew is not in a position to observe and help if there is a cabin event. Cabin events include:

• Passengers with medical problems: This is a much more frequent occurrence than you would expect.
• Passengers improperly operating an oven or microwave: A fire in an airplane is no more fun than a fire in a submarine.
• Cabin evacuation: The bigger the airplane- the greater your options and challenges.

All three of these large aircraft scenarios underscore the need for professional help (a highly trained cabin safety attendant). Your company can train the aviation department staff- including pilots- to provide service in the style fitting of your preferences. And when it comes to safety- at the very least all frequent passengers should participate in routine cabin safety training. The best practice in large aircraft is to do both.

As you can see- the metrics of service go far beyond scoring well on customer satisfaction surveys. In fact- many aviation professionals declare their highest service priority is safety. At the very least- service and safety are closely linked.

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