Sin­ga­pore Air­lines and the art of air­line man­age­ment

Metic­u­lous plan­ning of each and ev­ery de­tail has helped the car­rier soar

The Hindu Business Line - - NEWS - SATYA SONTANAM

Air­lines com­pete to pro­vide the best fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to pas­sen­gers, in terms of safety, com­fort, punc­tu­al­ity, hos­pi­tal­ity and meals pro­vided on­board. If you are a busi­ness or first-class trav­eller, you get that ex­tra care and at­ten­tion from the cabin crew. But be­hind those ser­vices are var­i­ous train­ing pro­grammes, joint ven­tures with mul­ti­ple or­gan­i­sa­tions and im­mense plan­ning.

A look at what hap­pens be­hind the scenes of one of Asia’s best air­lines, Sin­ga­pore Air­lines.

Train­ing in sim­u­la­tors

As safety of pas­sen­gers hinges on the ex­per­tise of pi­lots, most pi­lots un­dergo re­cur­rent/re­fresher train­ing pro­grammes at least twice a year.

All the pi­lots from Sin­ga­pore Air­lines, who op­er­ate Air­bus fleet, are trained in the Air­bus Asia Train­ing Cen­tre (AATC) — a joint ven­ture be­tween Sin­ga­pore Air­lines (45 per cent) and Air­bus (55 per cent). AATC, lo­cated in Sin­ga­pore, trains about 6,000 pi­lots ev­ery year from 60 dif­fer­ent air­lines.

De­pend­ing on the qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence of the pi­lot, the train­ing pro­gramme at AATC spans be­tween three days and one month. The three train­ing tech­nolo­gies used in AATC in­clude in­ter­ac­tive train­ing ap­pli­ca­tions such as Air­bus Cock­pit Ex­pe­ri­ence (ACE), Air­bus Pi­lot Tran­si­tion (APT) and Full Flight Sim­u­la­tors (FFS). Air­bus A350 full flight sim­u­la­tor gives pi­lots a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence

ACE repli­cates the airplane’s cock­pit ei­ther on a lap­top or a tablet from which the pi­lot learns about air­craft sys­tems and pro­ce­dures, dig­i­tally. The APT is a fixed cock­pit set-up that gives an idea about the po­si­tion and func­tion­ing of an Air­bus cock­pit.

And FFS sim­u­lates the air­craft and the en­vi­ron­ment in which it flies. It al­low pi­lots to be trained in sce­nar­ios, such as take-off, land­ing, emer­gency land­ing and wa­ter land­ing; it may not be pos­si­ble for pi­lots to un­dergo train­ing in a few of these on a real air­craft.

Cater­ing — a world in it­self

Be­hind Sin­ga­pore Air­lines’ in­flight meal, there’s enor­mous plan­ning on the quan­tity and qual­ity of meals, menus and meal spec­i­fi­ca­tion for each class, raw ma­te­rial re­quire­ments, in­tro­duc­tion or in­ven­tory of kitchen equip­ment, timely de­liv­ery and manag­ing food waste.

To meet the meal re­quire­ments

for flights de­part­ing from Sin­ga­pore, the Air­lines has out­sourced these cater­ing ser­vices to SATS — the chief ground-han­dling and in­flight cater­ing ser­vice provider at Sin­ga­pore Changi Air­port. SATS, in Sin­ga­pore, prepares 120,000 meals per day.

SATS op­er­ates with a team of food tech­nol­o­gists, di­eti­tians and culi­nary chefs who work to­gether to de­velop var­i­ous menus. Sin­ga­pore Air­lines, on its part,de­vel­ops meals for the pre­mium cabin classes, in as­so­ci­a­tion with celebrity chefs, in­clud­ing Al­fred Por­tale from New York and San­jeev Kapoor from In­dia.

Then, the ‘Think Lab’at SATS con­ducts var­i­ous tests es­sen­tial to the prod­uct’s de­vel­op­ment process. Fur­ther, the new items are tested in a sim­u­lated cabin, that recre­ates in-flight con­di­tions when it is cruis­ing at 30,000 ft. This is to as­sess the ac­tual in-flight ex­pe­ri­ence of the food, as our taste buds work dif­fer­ently at dif­fer­ent al­ti­tudes. To pre­pare and process the meal, SATS uses new tech­nolo­gies such as omelette vend­ing ma­chine and a rice line that is ca­pa­ble of cook­ing va­ri­eties of rice — Jas­mine rice, Ja­panese rice, In­dian bas­mati rice and flavoured chicken rice.

Re­cently, SATS also in­vested in a pas­teuri­sa­tion and ster­il­i­sa­tion tech­nol­ogy that can sup­pos­edly ex­tend the shelf life of freshly cooked food from two to 90 days.

Apart from food tech­nolo­gies, SATS is also mak­ing use of other sci­en­tific ad­vance­ments, ro­bots within its premises to carry food from one des­ti­na­tion to another.

Small things mat­ter

At Sin­ga­pore Air­lines Train­ing Cen­tre, one can see well­groomed girls and boys train­ing for cabin ser­vices, se­cu­rity and emer­gency evacuation drills at var­i­ous air­crafts’ cabin mock-ups for first, busi­ness, pre­mium econ­omy and econ­omy classes.

The cabin crew are given train­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties that are con­strued as triv­ial, such as ar­rang­ing news-papers, se­lect­ing ap­pro­pri­ate glasses for each vari­ant of bev­er­age and serv­ing meals of var­i­ous cuisines — In­dian, Chi­nese and Ja­panese. For in­stance, plac­ing chop-sticks ap­pro­pri­ately in Chi­nese and Ja­panese meal trays.

One fa­cil­ity that catches ev­ery­body’s at­ten­tion dur­ing a visit to this train­ing cen­tre is the wide swim­ming pool for­sim­u­lat­ing wa­ter con­di­tions, should the air­craft have an emer­gency land­ing on wa­ter. Train­ing for newly-in­ducted Sin­ga­pore Air­lines’ cabin crew takes over 15 weeks.

The writer was in Sin­ga­pore at the in­vi­ta­tion of Sin­ga­pore Air­lines.

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