Does your Valentine ski?
Last weekend was the first of three busy weekends in 2017 for ski lovers.
We call February and the beginning of March the ski axis period, when traffic from Northern Europe, mainly the United Kingdom, to the French and Swiss ski stations is at its highest.
For the Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC), this is a very busy period. Airports like Chambéry and Annecy have to provide additional capacity to accommodate sharply increased traffic peaks and they often have to stay open a lot later than they usually do in order to cope.
Airfields at and close to ski resorts tend to be small and so limited in terms of accommodating aircraft numbers and airframe types which need larger parking and gates. With many more passengers to carry in a short time span, aircraft operators want to use larger aircraft and fitting these aircraft in requires solid advance planning and excellent coordination between the airlines, airports and NMOC.
The Network Manager has been running the 'ski axis process' for several years now. Airports share essential information with the Network Manager:
- data referring to traffic loads;
- the number of flights and aircraft types;
- time requests;
- diversionary capacity when there is bad weather - a frequent occurrence in the winter and especially for airports in/near to the mountains.
The Network Manager juggles demand and availability, keeping close contact with local units to facilitate operations and keep delay to the minimum.
The ski axis process helps airlines run smoother operations - and it helps the network overall, as predictability is heightened. All combined to make sure that you and your Valentine reach the slopes on time!
In the future, the Network Manager wants to go even further and improve the coordination with ACCs for the upper airspace, review sector configurations to facilitate the flows and use even better flow management techniques.