Slot management is one of the most specialized occupations in the aviation industry. Typically, there are fewer than a couple of slot management experts at any airline. Given that there are 5,000 airlines with IATA codes, there truly aren't that many with this specialized skillset.
Now this exclusive group has a new tool: Slot Manager Mobile, which complements Slot Manager IATA to bring slots to wherever the experts happen to be. Yusuf Mauladad, Senior Principal at Sabre Airline Solutions, emphasizes how specialized this skill is:
"At most airlines, there are only one or two people who know the slot business well. Some large airlines may have four or five. This is because detailed knowledge of how airport coordinators manage slots around the world is very rare."
Slot Manager IATA is the system most widely used by airlines to manage their slots at slot coordinated airports.
What is the need for Slot Manager Mobile? The reality is that slot management is vital for airlines operating out of slot-managed airports. At these airports, operating without the proper slot often results in a significant fine and frequently jeopardizes the airline's future slots at the airport.
When making changes a day or two before a flight operates, airline operations is focused on getting aircraft and crew in place to get passengers to their destinations. They rely on slot experts to get them the slots needed in time for flights to operate. Not getting the needed slots in time results in having to re-schedule flights, incurring operational costs that affect profitability and a degraded experience for loyal customers. Poor or untimely slot management truly has a deep impact on an airline's financial performance.
Currently, slot managers are limited to their office systems to oversee slot transactions. This can be quite limiting, as slot experts are not always sitting at a desk. And, as most humans, they need some time to sleep, eat and get away from the computer! When there's only one person in the company that has this specialized knowledge, it puts a lot of pressure on the person to respond quickly. Without a mobile option, there really was no way to manage slots in situations where using the office laptop is not available. This leads to missed opportunities, as Mauladad explains:
"Even when at the office, it can take some time to get back to your desk, start up the system and act. One airline's slot management expert asked us for a mobile solution to take action anywhere in the world. Waiting costs the airline money. She said: ‘It’s snooze, you lose. I cannot wait until I get to the office to get this done.'"
Slot Manager Mobile offers access to information previously accessible only on desktop. It accesses data in the AirVision Slot Manager IATA system, and makes it available in real-time on a mobile device, which can be smartphone or tablet. This makes for a consistent information flow, regardless of device. And on mobile, the key is to have access to the most often needed functionality, says Mauladad: "We found that the experts need mobile access to about 20% of the system's capabilities. They don't want the whole thing. But the 20%, they want must be fast and immediate."
While this is clearly a product targeted at a niche group, it's an important reminder that it's not just the number of users that matters. It's about what those users do with the product, and just how operationally valuable the output is. The true value comes by focusing on the value provided by the tool — and that value comes from ensuring that passengers enjoy the benefits of smooth operations, as Mauladad says:
"When an airline manages slot well, there's less likelihood that the flight will be operated late due to slot issues. The schedule better meets passenger needs. Airlines that can make these decisions faster can control the ripple effect of slot-based disruptions and communicate schedule changes more quickly to passengers. That's excellent for the traveler's experience."
A video demo is below, and check out the live app on the Innovation Hub.