April 12, 2012

A Day in the Life: Schedule Planning

Welcome to A Day in the Life, where we take you behind the scenes at JetBlue to learn more about the important jobs that work in concert together to run a major airline. This time, we visit with Jeff and Greg, Managers on our Schedule Planning team, one of the most complex jobs at JetBlue.

Ever wonder why your flight departs at 8:59 a.m. rather than 9 a.m., or when we make the decision to publish our schedule extensions so you can book that trip to Puerto Rico for next March? Greg and Jeff hold the key to those answers. They’re the guys behind the numbers and are responsible for scheduling our 750 daily flights.


When a new city or route is announced, Jeff, who leads JetBlue’s future scheduling team, steps in to ensure those flights make it from concept to reality. He works with just about every group at JetBlue, from Revenue Management and Route Planning to Maintenance, Airports and Crew Scheduling, to position those flights so that they’re at optimal times for our customers and crewmembers.

Jeff has to account for things like slots at some of the busier airports (where we can only fly a certain number of flights daily during designated times), ensuring our aircraft are passing through the right cities for overnight maintenance checks , all while balancing the commercial strategies and maximizing profitability – all key ingredients of a JetBlue schedule. He also works with our Revenue Management team to review how our flights performed the year prior to help determine how we will determine future scheduling (adding or removing flights). Jeff also works regularly with the FAA and other airlines to trade slots when needed.

We’re generally planning schedules for all our flights close to a year in advance, and work to fine tune them prior to publishing between seven and ten months out (that’s when you can purchase tickets).

Greg’s job comes into play with flights that are three months out; he leads JetBlue’s current schedules team. Greg also coordinates with just about every group at JetBlue, and often is the clearinghouse for all things scheduling that need to get tweaked before a schedule becomes final.

As it gets closer to the actual month of travel, he shares the schedules with key departments and coordinates the requests across our workgroups to adjust times as needed. He might get a request, for instance, from our Crew Scheduling team to push flights up or back just a couple of minutes to accommodate a crew that might be connecting to another flight. He might get a call from one of our BlueCities that a last minute runway construction project is planned for the evening or that an air show will close the airport for an hour. His job is to figure out how to re-time our flights around unforeseen events.

One of the charts that Greg works with, showing our daily departures for May

Of course, Greg and Jeff also take into consideration the optimal times for arrivals when it comes to things like helping our customers maximize their beach time and minimize wait time at customs (like not scheduling our flight to arrive at the same time as ten 777′s from Asia) if at all possible. At any given moment, they are juggling considerations from multiple  groups within JetBlue as well as the best interests of our customers.

One of the coolest parts of Greg and Jeff’s jobs is that they assign all of our flight numbers. In an ode to our history, Flight 1 remains our first scheduled flight from New York’s JFK to Fort Lauderdale. They also labeled one of our Boston to Las Vegas flights 777; one of our Washington D.C.-bound flights is 1600; and our Bogotá flight is named 1783 after the birth year of Simón Bolívar, who led Colombia to independence from Spain.

As we move into 2012 and beyond and introduce our new A321 fleet, as well as our A320neo aircraft and retrofitted winglets, a whole new layer of complexity will be added to Greg and Jeff’s plates. Aside from a growing number of aircraft and flights to schedule, which planes should be scheduled for our transcontinental flights versus the East Coast corridor?

The team jokes that they’ve often considered giving potential candidates a Sudoku puzzle as an interview test since airline scheduling is like a large ever-evolving puzzle. The job has so many moving pieces and requires consideration from almost every workgroup at JetBlue that only a person with agility and critical thinking skills can truly enjoy this kind of work. At its essence, developing an efficient schedule for 750 daily flights is a huge, complex puzzle!

Check out the previous editions of A Day In The Life and meet Loretta in Security, Chris in InflightMorgan in Social Media, Don in Air Traffic System Control, and Mike in Ground Operations, and stay tuned for the next edition!

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