American Airlines’ HEAT Tool Prevents Flight Cancellations

American Airlines’ HEAT Tool Prevents Flight Cancellations

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We’ve seen some major airline meltdowns over time, most recently with United Airlines, which canceled thousands of flights prior to the July 4th holiday. The meltdowns are typically initially caused by some sort of weather event, and then get significantly worse due to airlines not having the technology required to recover, in terms of scheduling crews and aircraft as efficiently as possible.

While American Airlines hasn’t historically been the most operationally reliable airline, the Fort Worth-based carrier is showing off a tool that it claims has prevented 1,000 flight cancellations in the past year alone (and I can’t help but feel like the timing of this being announced is no coincidence).

American Airlines’ HEAT tool helps manage storms

American Airlines is sharing the details of “cutting-edge technology” that it has developed in-house, which keeps customers moving when severe weather impacts hubs. The system is called Hub Efficiency Analytics Tool (HEAT), and it dynamically moves flight schedules around to ensure that customers, crews, and aircraft, keep moving when weather threatens to disrupt the schedule.

HEAT optimizes data about weather, how full flights are, customer connections, and gate availability, as well as air traffic control and crew restraints. Then an advanced algorithm weighs this data and shifts arrivals and departures around at hubs.

The people working in American’s Integrated Operations center (IOC), the nerve center of the operation, use HEAT to help prevent severe weather impacts. American claims that since initial deployment last year, HEAT has prevented nearly 1,000 flight cancellations.

Here’s how Timothy Niznik, American’s Director of IOC Analytics, describes this tool:

“HEAT is an innovative tool and part of our irregular operations playbook that will only get smarter with use. Each time we run HEAT, we analyze the results, and incorporate those findings so we can continue to improve the strategies and technology that help keep our operation moving.”

My take on American’s HEAT system

Credit where credit’s due, American’s HEAT system sounds great, assuming it works as well as the airline is claiming. Airlines have pretty antiquated technology across the board, and the meltdowns at both Southwest and United have shown us the extent to which technology (specifically around crew scheduling) fails airlines during major operational disruptions.

While American highlights how this system has prevented 1,000 flight cancellations, it’s not clear at what cost. Did the airline have a significant increase in the number of delays spread across many flights to avoid these cancellations? After all, it’s explained that this tool dynamically moves flight schedules around. Regardless, hopefully this system prevents American from having a large scale meltdown.

Now American needs to develop a similar system for being realistic during flight delays, not posting delays by five minutes at a time, and not claiming that a flight will leave in 10 minutes when the inbound flight hasn’t even arrived at the gate. 😉

This technology also raises a bigger point about airline delays and cancellations being preventable. Airlines always do what they can to blame operational disruptions on weather, since that leaves them with the least liability.

Yes, there may very well have been weather somewhere, but really a cancelation may have been caused by a carrier’s inability to recover from weather. As you can see here, American is claiming that it prevented 1,000 weather related flight cancellations. If the cancellations can be prevented, can they really be blamed on weather? 😉

American’s Integrated Operations center (IOC)

Bottom line

American Airlines is publicly sharing the details of HEAT, a system that was developed in-house to avoid flight cancellations when there’s severe weather. Presumably American is trying to brag a bit after United’s recent meltdown. Hopefully American doesn’t have a large scale meltdown itself in the coming months, or else there will be a lot of questions about HEAT.

What do you make of American Airlines’ HEAT tool?

Conversations (20)
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  1. iamhere Guest

    Agree I would rather have the flight canceled than waiting with no updates or short time delays that turn into a long one. And also would say this is the cost of doing business for the airline

  2. DCharlie Guest

    So basically nothing…

    A COOL name can make even a turd appetising at least on a menu…

  3. Comment Guest

    Wow they have an ~algorithm~ so high tech. So fancy. So innovative.

  4. snic Diamond

    HAHAHAHAHA! This is the airline that routinely can't seem to keep track of where its incoming crew are and therefore has no idea what to tell delayed passengers about when their flight will depart.

    Yeah, AA, good luck with your HEAT. Maybe you should try implementing the WTFIMP (Where The F Is My Pilot?) tool first

  5. NPS Guest

    One reason I switched from UA to AA years ago (20+ Years as a 1K and GS at times) was the inability of UA to deal with weather events that did not result in flight cancels all the time. I can count on one hand the number of AA mainline flight cancels I've had in 20 years of flying them as a secondary then primary airline. AA tending to bank flights within a hub (DFW...

    One reason I switched from UA to AA years ago (20+ Years as a 1K and GS at times) was the inability of UA to deal with weather events that did not result in flight cancels all the time. I can count on one hand the number of AA mainline flight cancels I've had in 20 years of flying them as a secondary then primary airline. AA tending to bank flights within a hub (DFW flights rarely cross hubs: meaning a DFW-SAN-DFW aircraft and crew will work in/out of DFW - UA on the other hand had abysmal usage of crews/aircraft in some cases going MCO-EWR-SAN-ORD - meaning if ORD had NO weather but EWR did - there was a good chance the SAN-ORD flight would get cancelled - neither origin or dest affected by weather)

    Yes you may be delayed, yes you may get in way late but AA will most likely operate a flight vs cancelling as quick as UA does. When UA would cancel at peak travel times, even being a 1K or GS meant the replacement flights were less than ideal.

    Kudos on AA

    1. Clem Diamond

      Thing is - I'd rather my flight being cancelled rather than having to wait 6-8 hours for a delayed flight with zero information and 10 minutes rolling departure updates. That happened to me twice in the last 2 years (and I rarely fly AA, for that particular reason - my blood pressure can't take it). Or at least, give people a realistic departure time instead of this 10-15 minutes rolling BS. They only do that...

      Thing is - I'd rather my flight being cancelled rather than having to wait 6-8 hours for a delayed flight with zero information and 10 minutes rolling departure updates. That happened to me twice in the last 2 years (and I rarely fly AA, for that particular reason - my blood pressure can't take it). Or at least, give people a realistic departure time instead of this 10-15 minutes rolling BS. They only do that so they don't have to cancel a flight, impacting their statistics.

  6. George Romey Guest

    I think the central problem is that the system is taxed and overloaded so that when weather, particularly summer weather which is far more unpredictable, comes in recovery becomes difficult. Planes are packed to begin with, airplanes end up not being able to get to a gate even when the weather passes and crews easily time out. There's a price to be paid with 90% load factors. They might financially benefit the airline but there's...

    I think the central problem is that the system is taxed and overloaded so that when weather, particularly summer weather which is far more unpredictable, comes in recovery becomes difficult. Planes are packed to begin with, airplanes end up not being able to get to a gate even when the weather passes and crews easily time out. There's a price to be paid with 90% load factors. They might financially benefit the airline but there's far less operational flexibility and software can only go so far.

  7. VT-CIE Diamond

    Well, Lucky… *Untied* Airlines? Sure reminds me of that parody website, untied.com…

  8. Steve Diamond

    When everyone complains about cancelations and weather delays just ask yourself if you think AA and other airlines should cut corners for simplicity and convenience like the Titan sub did.

    1. Dan Guest

      That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard someone say in awhile. You sir deserve a participation award.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      @Steve has a point.

      Look at Boeing and FAA with their 737MAX fiasco.

      Don't fall for the propaganda.

  9. LP Guest

    Some context here - AA flies ~6,700 daily flights or ~2.4 million in one year. So out of 2.4 million flights in a year (who knows how many cancelations or potential cancelations), this system saved 1,000. Or an average of <3 flights per day out of 6,700. Big deal.

    1. NPS Guest

      Nice try - look here: https://flightaware.com/live/cancelled/

      You will see even on poor WX days, AA is rarely cancelling flights - delays - YES, but compared to UA, DL and WN they cancel rarely - part of this is because they have operated flights/crews focused on specific hubs, unlike UA who will during the day have an aircraft originating in one WX prone hub need to end up later in the day to another hub.

      ...

      Nice try - look here: https://flightaware.com/live/cancelled/

      You will see even on poor WX days, AA is rarely cancelling flights - delays - YES, but compared to UA, DL and WN they cancel rarely - part of this is because they have operated flights/crews focused on specific hubs, unlike UA who will during the day have an aircraft originating in one WX prone hub need to end up later in the day to another hub.

      20+ years for me as AA secondary and then primary airline and less than 4 cancellations EVER - that was one year on UA each time I flew them

    2. Travel4b Guest

      My thought as well - an average of three flights per day isn’t much when you are the world’s largest airline.

  10. RPGFaFG Guest

    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

    I have a vague recollection of AA claiming they would never lose money in 2017

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      That was just Dougie on another one of his drunk rants.... but he was indeed dumb enough to publicly claim it to media:

      https://chiefexecutive.net/american-airlines-will-never-lose-money-says-ceo-doug-parker/

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Clem Diamond

Thing is - I'd rather my flight being cancelled rather than having to wait 6-8 hours for a delayed flight with zero information and 10 minutes rolling departure updates. That happened to me twice in the last 2 years (and I rarely fly AA, for that particular reason - my blood pressure can't take it). Or at least, give people a realistic departure time instead of this 10-15 minutes rolling BS. They only do that so they don't have to cancel a flight, impacting their statistics.

2
Eskimo Guest

@Steve has a point. Look at Boeing and FAA with their 737MAX fiasco. Don't fall for the propaganda.

1
Dan Guest

That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard someone say in awhile. You sir deserve a participation award.

1
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