Background and Challenge

A major U.S. airline had recently undergone a merger and was having challenges transitioning into a cohesive operation. During the prior six months, the operational performance, particularly on-time performance, had been at an unacceptable level and there was no perceptible trend of recovery. Senior management elected to seek the involvement of the independent, highly experienced airline professionals at L.E.K. Consulting to identify the causal factors and to recommend the required actions necessary to implement operational performance improvements.

Approach and Recommendations

We performed on-site operational observations and interviews for a qualitative perspective, and matched this against rigorous quantitative analysis of both public (FAA) and client internal data regarding on-time performance. We developed a detailed model of the airline’s operations so that different, very specific operational scenarios could be simulated and tested for their implications on the overall operations. Based on the insights from our analysis and modeling, the team worked collaboratively with the airline to develop a rigorous implementation plan that entailed procedural, organizational and operational changes for the company.

We recommended six major initiatives to the client:

  • De-stress the operation
  • Establish and implement involved schedule review process
  • Get a major hub back to its prior performance and trial new initiatives
  • Implement intensive "training blitz"
  • Create accountability for operational leadership
  • Assure IT effectiveness prior to further rollout


The client implemented our recommendations and within 12 months moved from last place to first on the on-time operational performance league tables (and stayed there).

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