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A day in the life of a Crew Scheduler


Publication day is a critical day in a crew scheduler’s calendar.  In this blog we explore some of the challenges a crew scheduler juggles leading up to it.

The weekend may be approaching, vacation may be approaching, even lunchtime may be approaching but a crew scheduler has only one date in mind: publication day. This is the key date in every crew scheduler’s month; it’s the date that all their activities are planned around.  It’s also the deadline they do not want to miss: they can’t miss!   The majority of airlines will have a commitment to their crew to publish the next month’s rosters on a certain day beforehand.

Publication is important!  Firstly it’s when the crew find out how their lives are planned in the following month; see our previous blog on our website which discusses the impact of this day.  It’s also the day when a new set of rules for crew scheduling come into play.  Before this day crew rosters are blank canvases for crew schedulers: flights, meetings, courses can be moved around (there are some exceptions to this).  At the point of publication rosters become locked down; duties can only be changed in certain circumstances.

Roster quality is important: but what does quality mean?

These new set of rules mean that the quality of rosters is critical on publication day: something schedulers are very aware of.  In fact looking at this morning’s emails they are becoming even more aware of it.  Already today an email from the Training Department is asking to move the course they are running with 30 crew on it to a different time, and from a different location.  This could affect the rest period of the crew on the course.   The manager of the OCC is concerned that there was not enough crew standby this month on a specific fleet, suggesting more should be planned next month.   A Crew Manager has already queried why more crew are not getting their days off requests and the Director of Ops has heard a rumor that all flights may not be crewed this month.   Quality is clearly critical: the problem is everyone seems to have a different view of what a good set of rosters are.   This balance is constantly on a scheduler’s mind as the clock ticks down to publication day.   Not helped by all of these challenges being constrained by a complex set of rules that crew need to be scheduled to.

Crew schedulers are artists and scientists.

Many airlines will use software to support crew schedulers; often optimization software.   This software can quickly produce rosters and it can search many combinations of rosters to come up with the best option.  Evaluating the impact of moving the training course or planning more standby duties can be understood quickly.   This software doesn’t take away from a scheduler’s skills as crew scheduling remains both a science (a complex mathematical problem) and an art (a balance of conflicting perspectives).  Schedulers use their experience to set up the optimizer to get the best solution.   It doesn’t necessarily take away the pressure of deadline day but it does help achieve that goal of producing ‘quality rosters’.

Motulus are experienced in deploying complex mathematical techniques to solve crew planning problems, our integrated crew planning product is live in a number of European airlines. Can our optimization software help your airline?  Reach out at if you’d like to discover more.


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash