"By providing its crew-members with an excellent crew request system, Lufthansa was able to create a win-win situation, for the crew-members by increasing their influence on their rosters, and for the shareholders by generating considerable cost savings for the airline using a dramatically-reduced crew planning cycle.

Today, the rosters of Lufthansa 15,000 flight attendants are built less than 15 days before operation, with a satisfaction ratio exceeding 90% for the two main requests.

This outstanding improvement of our crew planning processes could not have been achieved without the real-time Preferential Bidding System and Automatic Rostering System from Kernel Software."

Stefan Wendlandt
Management Cabin Staff Communication, Training and Development
Deutsche Lufthansa AG

In the jargon of airlines, a roster is the monthly schedule of a crew-member (a pilot or a flight attendant). It describes the flights of the crew-member, his rest days, his vacation days and his training activities.

Lufthansa has approximately 20,000 crew-members. Each month, it faces the gigantic task of building an individual roster for every single crew-member. Each roster must obey hundreds of pages of rules described in German and European regulations, in the contracts between Lufthansa and its crew-members, and in a number of additional agreements resulting from discussions with the trade unions. Additionally, rosters must be planned close to the average number of flight hours in order to reduce overtime costs.

It is crucial for Lufthansa to match the size of the aircraft used to operate a flight to the number of passengers it expects on that flight: using too large an aircraft is costly, using one which is too small wastes a profit opportunity.

However, Lufthansa operates in a market that has become extremely volatile and difficult to forecast. Further complicating the matter, the aircraft type and expected number of passengers determine the number and qualifications of the crew-members on a flight. Once a flight has been inserted into the roster of a pilot, it becomes very difficult to change the aircraft type because pilots are qualified for a unique class of aircraft.

As a result, Lufthansa needs to build the monthly rosters of its crew-members as late as possible.

Now, building rosters as late as possible raises two issues:

The first issue is that building rosters is a truly difficult task. In most airlines, planners need more than 5 weeks to complete it. Reducing this time to 2 weeks is far from obvious.

Crew-members like to know as early as possible what their monthly roster will look like, so that they can plan their personal life (one has to remember that, in the airline world, week-ends are not special days). They were not asking for late planning.

The solution to these two issues is based on two systems developed by Kernel Software:

The first one is ACA (*), a tool capable of building rosters automatically. ACA performs in a few hours a task that used to keep several planners busy for a week.

The second one is MPG (**), the real-time request system used by Lufthansa crew-members to request their rest days, the rotations they would like to fly and the dates on which they would like their training activities to take place. It gives Lufthansa crew-members more control on their rosters, thus compensating for the late building of the rosters.

The benefits of the compressed planning cycle that ACA and MPG have made possible are not limited to considerable cost savings. They have also greatly increased Lufthansa ability to react to major disruptions, and significantly improved the robustness of a critical business process.

(*) Automatic Crew Assignment
(**) Mitarbeiter Plan Gestaltung (elaboration of the rosters by the crew-members)

Change Management

How Lufthansa convinced its planners
to use an automatic rostering tool

How Lufthansa has dramatically reduced
its crew planning cycle