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Are you using MCTs to their full potential?

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Time is Money

Minimum Connection Time (MCTs) are done as a standard in Revenue Integrity (RI) solutions. It’s done so commonly that users and suppliers have lost sight of its importance. Think you’ve got MCTs covered? Think you use MCTs to their full potential? Think again! Financial losses, reputational damage and even loss of custom to competitors are just some of the far-reaching effects of poorly managed MCTs.

Getting from A to B

Known as the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta (ATL) has more than 200 gates. The sheer size of the airport means that minimum connection times will be longer than average. However, distance is not the only factor in determining MCTs for transfers occurring at airports such as this. Airlines need to account for other, less obvious, factors.

Passengers that are flying into the USA must clear immigration at their first port of call – even if they are just transiting. The immigration process can take a very long time, especially at an airport that handles close to 300,000 PAX every day. If a passenger is entering under the visa waiver system (ESTA), this can be seen in the electronic passport data and the PNR records. Having flexibility within your RI system allows airlines to use this information to adjust the MCT for certain passengers. Because the US does not have a secure zone for baggage, transiting passengers must collect their bag and take it to the transfer desk – effectively re-checking their baggage. Again, user-defined RI rules allow users to create stricter MCT rules for this type of situation.

Contrary to common belief, transfers don’t just happen in the same airport. There are many cases where a connection takes place within a metropolitan area. London, for example, has seven airports. The transfer distance between London Heathrow (LHR) and London Stansted STN) is over 60 miles. Airlines must have the ability within their system to define rules that deal with huge transfer distances and times.

An RI system that has capabilities to deal with the potential of misconnects adds more value to an airline than merely helping to keep load factors up. The financial consequences of passengers
misconnecting are huge and varied. Flights will be over fuelled and over catered. Airlines may also have to pay meal voucher or accommodation costs to passengers stranded at the airport as well
as paying compensation to the passengers later.

Overstaying your welcome

In some cases, airlines need to be worried about connection times that are too long rather than too short. Some countries/cities, such as Hong Kong (HK), actively encourage people to transit through and stay a while (up to 24 hours). Lengthy connection times here encourage passengers to sample life in the city.

The transit visa here lasts 24 hours so in these cases, airlines need to ensure that the connection time is not over 24 hours otherwise they will face fines by the HK authorities. Airlines that frequently fly into HK, such as Qantas, will need to configure their systems to ensure that transfers meet the maximum as well as minimum connection time rules.

The Butterfly Effect

An RI solution with MCT functionality must recognise a schedule change and based on those changes, highlight the correct passengers as MCT violations.

Ordinarily, humans would have to work out which passengers need to go on an earlier inbound or later outbound flight. Humans, however, shouldn’t have to pick out the passengers from the whole flight.

A robust and configurable RI solution with MCT capabilities should select the passengers to go into a queue for human review. Down the line, the effect of processing schedule changes correctly leads to a much smoother customer service situation.

Failing to deal with schedule changes can have huge financial consequences. Airlines have two main options when dealing with passengers that are unable to connect in time.

1) Fly without the delayed passengers
2) Delay the connecting flight(s)

Option 1 leads to no-shows, a plane that is over-fuelled and
over-catered and a group of disgruntled passengers stuck at the
airport waiting to get another flight.

Option 2 is no better – if the airline waits for the passenger(s), increased ramp and stand costs are incurred as well as the allocated take-off slot being missed. By taking-off late, the pilot must decide whether to fly quickly and land on schedule or fly economically and miss the original landing slot.

Flying quickly leads to positives for customer service and reduces the knock-on effect but it dramatically increases fuel costs and the wear and tear on the aircraft.

Economical flying in this situation could lead to more missed connections down the line, compensation pay outs and even increased fuel costs due to missed landing slots.

Whose fault is it anyway?

In a situation where a travel agent (TA) has done a ‘favour’ to a customer by creating a booking with a tight connection time, it is the airline that would have to deal with the financial implications.

In situations such as the one above, the passengers often make the connecting flight but their bags don’t. In these cases, it is the airline that pays out for new clothes as well as the cost of couriering the bag to the hotel.

Reporting from a high-quality RI solution enables users to drill down into MCT violations and identify the offending TAs or even, in the cases of repeat offenders, to cancel bookings altogether.

Connecting with the future

The consequences for airlines of poorly managed MCTs include increased costs, long-term reputational damage and loss to competition.

While most airlines may ‘do’ MCTs, it is important for them to check that they’re doing them correctly. The impact of MCTs on punctuality is huge and that, in turn, has a huge effect on the airline’s fortunes.

For each percentage point improvement in punctuality there is a potential profit improvement of €4-16 million.

Aside from the financial benefits, managing MCTs correctly can lead to improvement of an airline’s reputation. In today’s world of instant and viral news, this is a vital and important differentiator to an
airline’s competitors.

Looking to the future, potential integration with flight ops could help to further mitigate problems associated with MCTs. By taking delay messages from in-bound planes and working out, dynamically, how to solve the problems will help to contain the issue.

Furthermore, through linking closely with post-flight operations to aid with the recovery process, a good RI solution will be able to provide evidence for the creation of agency debit memos (ADMs) and tighter restrictions being placed on specific TAs.