The Importance of Transparency in Strict Seniority Rostering

Roster construction in a Strict Seniority Preferential Bidding System (PBS) environment is a process that is heavily driven by crew member’s bids and preferences. As crew planners build rosters and consider crew member bids, the most common factors that affect bid award success include:

  • Roster legality aspects
  • Roster completeness (correct workload on the roster)
  • Full (or sufficient) coverage of flight trips and reserve levels

In such a complex environment, where so much influence and opportunity are given to each crew member, it is important to clearly communicate and set reasonable award expectations with your crew members. Jeppesen believes that providing a high level of transparency throughout the PBS cycle is an essential element to increase the crew members’ (and the planners’) trust in the system.

Transparency while bidding

The PBS process is, in most cases, executed monthly. This means crew are able to enter their bids up until a certain date. Once the bidding window closes, the roster construction can begin. It is only when the rosters are published that crew members see the results of their bids. If results are not as expected, it is already too late to modify bids in hopes of obtaining a different roster.

Jeppesen believes that crew members should be able to verify their bids while retaining the opportunity to make changes, such as:

  • Will asking for layovers in Montreal and Miami play well together with a wish to get a commuter roster and low hours this month?
  • Would it be better to give up the destinations this month and ask for Thursdays off instead?
  • What would give the desired roster?

Jeppesen is constantly working on developing tools that support crew members in this process – not only for entering bids, but also entering the right bids that yield the highest chances to be awarded their anticipated roster.

Transparency while awarding

Planners, responsible for constructing the rosters, need to be able to soar above the detailed complexities of intricate rules and constraints. By doing so, they can focus on the overarching planning problem and more effectively, award bids in the most advantageous manner.

Our powerful optimizers can be used in scenario mode to allow planners to evaluate and quantify trade-offs as part of the production planning:

  • How much will the bid award be impacted if I require 100% trip coverage?
  • If I enforce only 98% flight trip coverage, will that improve reserve coverage and bid award?
  • And in both scenarios – at what seniority level will required coverage start to impact bid award?
  • Are there any special skills/qualifications that seem to be scarce this month, and thus will have a comparably worse bid award compared to other groups?

From analyzing and comparing such scenarios, planners can set targets for business goals for the production run – for example: maximum allowed open time credit and daily stacking, as well as the minimum level of reserve coverage.

A planner can easily follow the progress of the optimizer run (or ‘runs’ if several were launched in parallel), plot the progress of KPIs (like bid award levels) and open intermediate solutions to study details.

Transparency post award

When the roster is published to the crew members, they will want to review them against their submitted bids in order to retain trust in the system and the seniority principles applied. Therefore, in addition to the published rosters, Jeppesen provides supplementary information that help the crew members understand why certain bids were not successful.

The benefits of transparency to both, crew members and planners throughout the PBS planning process, are often underestimated. Jeppesen believes that providing transparency and feedback is a fundamental requirement for a successful planning. Not only does it increase the trust in the system, but also the trust between the airline and its crew members – while enabling the airline and the crew members to achieve better rosters.

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have transparency in your current Crew Rostering system? Is it important to you? Leave us a comment below.


About the Authors

Lars Söderqvist is Product Manager for Crew Rostering. He has worked in the field of aviation resource planning for nearly 25 years, based in Sweden, Germany and Singapore.




Kamal Yammine is a system design and integration specialist at Boeing with 15 years of experience in Crew Rostering, specializing in Strict Seniority PBS. He has helped many airlines in defining and implementing a rostering system to successfully solve their complex crew scheduling needs.

2 comments on "The Importance of Transparency in Strict Seniority Rostering"

  • Keith Ferguson says:

    Would be interested to understand further how your logic for unstacking works in the context of a top down seniority based bid particularly when multiple language requirements on trips are required and corresponding language qualified FA crew are are part of of overall solution. Example; a German qualified language speaker who bids off German required trips and can do so based on remaining available GE qualified junior available to operate the trip. Does the system recalculate all requirements (position and language) after each line is created based on remaining available staff not withstanding any overall flex a crew planner may input at outset of run, or is this based on a more global logic from initial crew planner input only.
    Keith Ferguson

    • Kamal Yammine says:

      The Jeppesen Strict Seniority algorithms consider language coverage as one of several aspects in trip coverage. It will cover the language requirements as far as the crew availability allows, of course considering bids and seniority while doing that. Hence, a qualified language speaker has the possibility to bid to avoid language-required trips, subject to junior crew availability and other business constraints. The way this is done is part of our proprietary algorithms.
      As language coverage requirements differ from airline to airline, we would be happy to discuss this further with you, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
      Kamal Yammine

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