OTP – getting you away on time

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 puts its wheels up just after departure

We know you make a big effort to get to the airport on time. Checking in online, setting alarms early – sometimes in the middle of the night – and planning the fastest route so you can meet our schedule. We work really hard to make sure you get to your final destination at the right time too.

In airline speak, this is known as ‘on time performance’, or OTP for short. Airlines are measured on their OTP and being too late to arrive or depart – or even sometimes too early – can cause problems for customers, other airlines and the busy airports we fly to that need to operate like clockwork.

We work hard to make sure our OTP is good – and we’re proud of the results. In 2016, with our joint venture partner Delta, we were number one for punctuality on flights between Heathrow and the USA* We also finished 2016 as the top performing airline on the other routes we fly from Heathrow – great news for our customers, who we know have places to be!

Getting an aircraft ready to take off on time involves a lot more than you might expect. The plane you board for your flight to Delhi may have arrived from LA just a few hours earlier so, from taking off luggage, cleaning, then loading new luggage, to our engineers and pilots checking the systems, a huge number of things need to happen to get it ready to jet off again.

We spoke to a few of the people who help get you into the sky on time – and found out more about how they do it.

Aaron Arnold, Avionic Certifying Engineer

Aaron Arnold

Aaron Arnold

What does your job involve?
I hold legal responsibility for the work carried out by me and my technicians on avionics systems on all Virgin Atlantic Aircraft. Avionics is a term used to describe all electrical and electronic systems onboard our aircraft that could control anything from navigation to inflight entertainment. My work could include: general maintenance, troubleshooting and rectifying of defects, uploading and downloading aircraft software, and making sure all design modifications and service requirements are carried out in line with maintenance documents.

How do you help get us into the sky on time?
We do our best to get onboard the aircraft we’re carrying out work on as soon as possible. Communication with other departments is key. It allows us to keep track of the aircraft’s movements on the line and know when other people have completed their work. This means we can maximise our workable time on the aircraft and complete all our work with as minimum impact to the operation as possible, making sure the aircraft is safe and fit to fly.

Alison Morgan, Turnaround Coordinator

Alison Morgan

Alison Morgan

What does your job involve?
I work in the team that helps drive the OTP here at Heathrow, and work above and below wing.

Below the wing, we manage the loading and offloading of cargo (from peppers and flowers to expensive sports cars) mail (letters and parcels from companies such as DHL and even the Queen’s mail), baggage (suitcases, buggies, wheelchairs and even pole vaults or canoes) and pets. We make sure there’s enough fuel loaded according to our flight plan and that all our service providers are at the aircraft to carry out their jobs on time – especially on a tight turnaround.

Our above wing duties are making sure the aircraft is ready for our cabin crew, pilots and of course our customers. We make sure all catering is onboard, that cleaners are making the aircraft spotless, and even occasionally helping out with the dressing of the cabin (stuffing pillowcases or putting out the headrests/headsets). We also work with the gate team to coordinate boarding our customers.

No day or flight is ever the same which makes our job really interesting, and we thrive on the challenge of OTP

How do you help get us into the sky on time?
We make sure all staff and service providers are complying to the timelines set out by Virgin Atlantic during a turnaround, with safety at the forefront. Communication and coordination is key between us – crew, pilots, cleaners, caterers, security and loaders all play a part in getting the flights out on time. Sometimes this may include running buggies to the ramp for loading or assisting the cleaners on board with the dressing of the aircraft if on a tight turn.

Keith Braid, Head of OCC (Operations Control Centre)

Keith Braid

Keith Braid

What does your job involve?
I’m responsible for our OCC (Operations Control Centre) located in our Crawley offices. The OCC has nine different areas represented within it and these teams all play a key role in ensuring we can deliver our flying schedule in a safe, regulatory compliant and punctual way. In short, it’s the job of the OCC to make sure we have the right aircraft in the right place at the right time while keeping our customers well informed and supported throughout. This allows our pilots, crew and customer-facing teams to deliver the best possible service at the airport and onboard the aircraft. Whether it be dealing with aircraft technical defects, adverse weather, airport constraints or unexpected political or security events, the OCC has to make sure we minimise delays and the associated impact to our customers and cargo contracts.

How do you help get us into the sky on time?
One of my jobs is to make sure  punctuality remains a constant focus for the OCC teams. We hold a meeting each morning that includes all operational, customer and communications areas of the business, to discuss our performance the previous day, review any issues we have had and to take action where we feel we can improve. We also take an ongoing view of the forthcoming week’s operation to highlight potential risks and agree mitigations and contingencies to ensure minimal impact on our operation and therefore our customers.

Lucy Tardrew, Captain

Lucy Tardrew

Lucy Tardrew

What does your job involve?
We take responsibility for the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft, together with ensuring the safety of all occupants and cargo during flight.

How do you help get us into the sky on time? From the moment I check in for a flight, I keep an eye on the clock; it’s essential that we leave the crew-room on time. Once at the aircraft, I need to get the preliminary checks under way as soon as possible so that boarding can start. I make sure the aircraft is fully prepared and the pilot briefing has been completed around 30 minutes before departure, as the final half an hour is inevitably very busy with refueling, engineers and TCOs all coming up to the flight deck to get their paperwork checked and signed.

As your plane pushes back and takes off, our teams on the ground are already busy with their next job – and our teams at your destination will be getting ready for your arrival and to start the whole process all over again.

*(source: CAA punctuality data, A+D15%, Heathrow 2016).

Jodie Gray

About Jodie Gray

Jodie’s new to Virgin Atlantic, but her love of air travel begun years ago when her dad surprised her with her first ever flight from Heathrow. She still gets excited about going to the airport but she likes travelling on foot too – her favourite way to explore a new place is with an early morning run.
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