Flight Planning

Open up stations

We are basically ready to finally start flying. We have defined the basic settings and configurations, we have leased the fleet and all we need now is to decide which destinations we want to fly to. Let’s have a look at the Wave Planner tool again.

Please note, that the text below is mostly based on the first (failed) attempt to start in HEL. The principles are the same, but I succeeded with the second attempt by starting with domestic flights only at the beginning.

AS Route Map Wave Planner in HEL

I won’t deny, that the biggest airports usually have the highest demand. It’s not a guarantee, but as a rule of thumb it’s not wrong. And big airports normally fill up faster, so the earlier you can grab a slot, the better. Click on the markers to have the airport page opened. You can check the airport information (mostly the remaining slots available).

You also might want to check the real life airport page or some other ways to find out where airlines fly to mostly in real life. Some countries also have restrictions, so while Havanna and Miami are really close, flights between the two countries are not allowed (at least not yet in AS, although in real life there are now some). Similar Israel has quite a lot of restrictions. Luckily in HEL we don’t have to worry about those.

If you think you have the right destinations, go to the stations page and open up a station at the airports where you want to fly to.

AS Open stations link

I have now opened up plenty of stations that I want to connect to. I have simply added airports of different sizes to the AS Route Map tool above and then checked those airports.

AS List of stations

Usually it is always a good thing to select domestic airports. Domestic demand is in most cases bigger than International. And then, the further away, the more difficult it is to get passengers. So start short to long when you start planning your flights.

Flight Numbering

You will probably hear a lot of different advice on flight numbering. In the end, I believe it doesn’t matter that much. I kinda like to have low digit numbers for long-haul flights, and bigger numbers for short-haul flights. Ideally, you also separate them somehow by hub (let’s say 1,000 – 1,999 is in Hub 1, and then 2,000 – 2,999 is in Hub 2 etc.).

Let me know if you have some other concepts or good ideas on how to number your flights.

Inventory Page - Assign profiles to routes

In the inventory page you can assign the different service profiles that we have defined earlier to a specific route. I normally always use the best possible profile. For the route below (HEL – KTT) the distance is 803km. So I could either use the short profile “0000x Suomi” which is up to 800km or I can also assign the “0800x Suomi” profile which is for flight between 800km and 1,500km. I will choose the better one, although it probably doesn’t matter for the 3km difference.

I am now basically going through all the destinations and assign a profile to it. This way, I won’t have to worry about when I start the routes in flight planning.

Normally I would also adjust the prices. Since my airline is brand new, and since I don’t have an image built up yet, I will not adjust the prices just yet. I will keep them at standard (although I have better seats) and only increase them once a few flights have been finished. You will then notice, that the image has already gone up. It will probably take around two to three weeks to get to a reasonable level, before the changes in image kind of flatten out. After a bit more than three months my image has increased not to 81.96 in Economy and 86.16 in Business. As I don't fly any First Class nor Cargo, the image is still at 0.0 for these two categories.

AS Company image

Right now, the image is still 0.0 for all classes (hover with the mouse over the green bar to get the value). The higher the image, the better for the company.

AS Inventory page

Define wave times

Our main hub HEL has currently 69% slots free (three months later this is down to 61%, but still plenty of room to grow). We have 9 slots per 5 minutes and the minimum transfer time is 01:15h. The other good thing is, there is no nighttime ban, so we can start and land 24 hours. The demand calculation is at 13:52 hub time. So whenever we want to check if a route works or not, we have to check after that time to see if we got some bookings.

AS Airport information

There are plenty of slots available throughout the day, that is also awesome. There are a few less available at 11:00/12:00 and 19:00 but even that is not really trouble some.

AS Airport slots overview

One very important thing in the game is to build a solid and tight wave system. What does that mean? As mentioned earlier, we have decided to build three waves throughout the day. That means, we will have aircraft fly out three times a day, and arrive three times a day. In a tight wave, as many aircraft as possible arrive more or less at the same time, unload the passengers and then take-off for their next destination at or shortly after the minimum transfer time. HEL has a min transfer time of 01:15h, that means, if the aircraft land at (or shortly before) 06:59 then they can start to their next flight at 08:15 (or shortly thereafter). Note, I added one minute as the game uses seconds in its internal system, but displays only minutes. To make sure a passenger can connect, I’m adding the one minute to cater for that rounding.

Now a typical flight from HEL to Central Europe will take around 01:30 hours (assuming a speed of 830km/h it covers a rough distance of 1,200km). If you look at your stations page, you might see many airports that have a nighttime ban (moon symbol), especially in Europe. To maximize the flexibility, I will set my waves in a way that I can arrive shortly after 06:00 hub time at those airports. So my first wave should leave at around 04:30 in the morning. That would mean, flights have to arrive at or before 03:14 in the morning for that wave.

AS Nighttime ban icon

Having three equal waves, means I have to add 8 hours to those times. That would indicate, that my wave times are as follows:

Arrival Turnaround Departure
03:14 03:15 - 04:30 04:30
11:14 11:15 - 12:30 12:30
19:14 19:15 - 20:30 20:30

Let’s quickly double check if that is a problem or not.

AS Airport slot details

Argh, is that now a coincident or an example of when great minds think alike? It seems, a competitor has the same wave idea. What to do? Since that company exists already for more than a month and it has still only 10 aircraft, I would hope it is not that much of a though competitor. I will stick to my plan and use the above mentioned waves (sorry to my competitor).

In terms of demand calculation, there is no difference of when you choose your wave times. In real life, passengers normally don’t like to fly in the middle of the night, but in AS, the time of day does not have any effect. I guess, this is for simplicity reasons, but it would also put further stress on the slot issue which is already difficult in many airports.

Schedule flights

So now let’s start planning some flights. Open the Fleet Management page and click on the white Flight Planning button on the right hand side. Here happens all the magic!

AS Schedule flights

I will start with a flight number 1,000 and my first flight will be from HEL to RVN. I am planning to take-off at 04:35 as per the wave times defined (I’m not using 04:30 as those slots are already full). Press “Create new flight number” and we get the verification page for that flight.

AS Schedule flights checking

We can see all days and all items have a green tick. That is how it should be. The times selected have the required slots, there is no nighttime ban or noise restrictions and all seems fine. So we apply those settings and then do the return flight. The settings for the return flight should already be defined as they need. Simply press “Create new flight number” again.

AS Schedule flights checking

Note that the return flight was planned right after the first leg. In order to hit our second wave, we have to adjust the departure time in a way, that the arrival time (not the ready for departure time) is as close as possible to the second wave at 11:15. I chose to arrive at 11:14 to cater for the potential rounding. The next flight can then take-off at 12:30 again. So all looks good, I apply those settings as well.

Since this flight arrives from the North, I will select a destination in the South as my next flight. This will allow passengers to connect from RVN to a destination in the South (let’s try to find a slot in FRA as those are already scarce). So passengers from RVN could either want to fly to HEL, or also to FRA and my flight would cater for both options. If I later add more flights at similar times, more options will become available and my Hub becomes more attractive.

Slots in FRA are already difficult to find. My first try at 12:30 didn’t work and I got some red crosses. On Wednesday there is no departure slot left in HEL and I can’t get a landing slot in FRA on various days. Let’s open a new window and check for the available slots in FRA. CTRL-click on the “Arrival slots” link on the left hand side. A new window will open where you can check the available arrival slots.

AS Schedule flights red crosses

Check the 14:00 arrival time to see if and when there are still some slots available.

AS Airport available slots details

We are lucky, as just 10 minutes later there is a full bank of slots available for us. So let’s add 10 minutes to our departure time and check again. Great, it’s all green now and we can book that flight. Let’s try the return from FRA back to HEL. We want to arrive at 19:14 or before, which means we have to leave just shortly before 17:00 in FRA. Although the slots are rare, we can find again a full bank at 16:40. We take that and plan our flight to leave as late as possible (16:44) to minimize the waiting time in HEL.

AS Airport available slots details

This time we arrive from the South, so let’s plan our next flight north bound. Oulu (OUL) will be our next destination then.

AS Scheduled flight plan

Our final flight plan for that aircraft looks as follows. I have added a Personal note to later more easily find the destinations served. I add the hub (in case I will have more than one) then followed by the various destinations served. The last thing left to do is to activate the flight plan. This will then tell AS that we actually want to start flying. Our flights will be available for bookings and hopefully we will make some money.

AS Activate flight plan

You have the option to activate the flights immediately or with a 3 day delay. If you expect a good demand, the immediate activation will be the faster option. The 3 day delay is the safer one, as it ensure you get the full 3 booking cycles. Since I want to build up my image as quickly as possible, I will activate immediately.

If all went well, your flights should look all green by now.

AS Activated flight plan

If your flights are brown then it means you don’t have any seats and you are operating a cargo only flight. If any segment is red, then there is a problem with that segment and you should check and fix it.

Turnaround times

Also note the difference in the turnaround times between the two images. Above you see my flight on Ellinikon (without the dynamic turnaround times). The turnaround time calculation is shown AFTER the flight (the dark green bar), while on the image below (on Hoover, with dynamic turnarounds) you will see a bar BEFORE and AFTER the flight. The bar before the flight shows the preparation of the flight (refuelling, boarding or passengers, loading of cargo, etc.) while the bar after the flight shows the passengers disembarking, the unloading of cargo and cleaning of the cabin, etc. The length of the bar shows the time required. Click on the green bar to see the details of the turnaround time.

AS Cargo flight plan

Below is an example of a turnaround of an A320. The yellow parts are the critical path. The de-boarding, the cabin cleaning and the boarding are the parts that take the longest. Possibly by choosing a remote stand I might be able to minimize the TA times here.

AS Turnaround activities

Without the dynamic TA times (like on Ellinikon) you will just see a static amount of time that you cannot influence. It depends on your aircraft and the airport. Smaller airports have shorter TA times, as do smaller aircraft. If you know the times, you can build in some reserves in your flight plan, so that you can upgrade your planes more easily at a later stage.

AS Static turnaround activities

Maintenance times in flight planning

In the wave planning map previously we saw two circles, a red and a blue one within. The blue circle (for the HEL wave we looked at) has a radius of 1,314km. This means, we can fly 3 waves a day but we can also each have a 2 hour maintenance break in between to keep our fleet airworthy. We will need regular MX breaks, so our plan is to mix and match the flights into the red and the blue circle. I haven't mentioned it specifically, but that's what we did previously in our flight plan. Let's have a look at it again.

AS Activated flight plan

The blue areas in your flight plan graph above are the maintenance gaps. You will need a certain amount of those to ensure that your aircraft remains airworthy. In order for maintenance to be carried out, you need at least a break of 02:00 hours. In shorter time intervals, there is not enough time to start maintaining your planes. My Superjet currently has a Maintenance ratio of 267.0%. That is not particularly good, as an ideal MX ratio would be close to (but above) 100%. That means, I could plan more flights (more opportunity to earn money). But I have chosen to stick with this ratio, as I prefer to have clear and tight waves. I will have to allocate a bit higher cost for the leasing/crew cost to each flight, but hopefully I will get more connecting passengers and have a higher load factor.

In our flight plan above we have mixed and matched flights with destinations in the red and blue circle. This way we could have used three waves, yet we still have enough time for the required maintenance. Depending on your hub/routes you could also just have flights to a single destination (one plane, one destination). This has the advantage that if there is enough demand to a destination, you can simply upgrade that plane to a bigger one (or vice versa). If you have a mix of destinations on a single plane (like our example) then it is less likely, that all destinations have the same demand, making it more complicated to up-/downgrade a plane.

AS Aircraft information regarding maintenance

The condition at the moment is at 100% (perfect state). With each flight performed, the condition of the aircraft will deteriorate. With each MX break, the condition will become better again. The condition is updated once a flight departs. If your condition falls below 50% then your aircraft becomes AOG (Aircraft On Ground) and is no longer airworthy. You will longer be able to fly passengers until the maintenance crew has brought it back up above 50%.

Check the flight status

A few hours after I have activated the flights, I went into the Flight page and checked how my flights are doing. You can reach this page by going to the flight planning page and click the “Flights” tab, or simply by selecting the right most icon on the fleet management page for that aircraft.

AS Checking flight status

Below you see the first bookings on my first aircraft. Not so surprisingly, the domestic flights show the most bookings. HEL-OUL is already fully booked in Business class and has already a decent amount of passengers in Economy class. The other destinations are a bit disappointing. But let’s wait a few days and see if we can improve on those.

AS Flight status page

The second and third plane show similar results. Domestic flights show good bookings, while the longer legs are a bit disappointing at the moment. Let’s wait and see. There’s no reason to panic just yet.

AS Flight status page

AS Flight status page

AS Route Map network

While waiting for the first flights to actually take off, let’s have a look at our route network and create the airline on Go to Create, select the world and enter the airline number before pressing submit.

You will find the airline number on your airline info page in the URL. Towards the end of the URL there is a number. In my case it is 79938.

AS Airline information page

AS Route Map create route network

You should see the import log of the airline and get a link at the end to watch the airline. This will bring up the route network map with our current flights.

AS Route Map network