The Boeing 777-300ERs acquired by SWISS have a maximum take-off weight of 351,530 kilos. Watching such a huge aircraft take to the sky is an impressive sight. Equally impressive is the unfailing reliability of our cockpit and cabin crews, ensuring that every single SWISS flight on each and every route all over the world is fully staffed.
Head of Cabin Crew Planning Heinz Herzog, himself a former airline pilot, is responsible for drawing up our monthly rosters together with his team at SWISS’s headquarters in Zurich-Kloten. “Our focus is partly on long-term planning – matching the total number of cabin crew to our anticipated fleet capacity while taking account of different work schedules and training programmes. At the same time, we also have to plan our crew rosters for the month ahead.” It is a very complicated business when you consider that each of the SWISS fleet’s new aircraft – the Boeing 777-300ER and the Bombardier C Series – involves a complete change in staffing requirements, and, of course, familiarization training has to be organised for all flight crew. What is more, as well as all the different working hours and legal rules, collective bargaining agreements and contracts, the planning team has to consider individual staff requests to work at particular times or book holiday leave, for example. It can be very tricky. “We have to liaise closely with lots of others, too – including cabin crew managers, the cabin staff union and those responsible for the flight plan and the product, who tell us for example how many crew we need for a particular model of aircraft. Last but not least, we have to coordinate with our colleagues in the Cockpit Crew Planning team,” explains Heinz. Fortunately, the job is made easier by a powerful IT system.
Although the crew planning teams at SWISS make every effort to accommodate individual requests using the wealth of optimisation tools at their disposal, cabin staff understand that it is not always possible to do so. “It is easier now, though, to assign crew members who get on particularly well with each other to the same flights. As I see it, the level of satisfaction among our cabin staff is pretty high – though there’s always room for improvement, of course.” Heinz and his team clearly enjoy their work: “I love the job – it’s demanding and very dynamic. We constantly need to work out creative solutions whenever a problem arises. There are eleven of us altogether, and the team spirit is fantastic. For me, that’s really important.” So is Heinz ready to meet the challenges of further expansion over the coming years? “Absolutely!”
Text: Tamás Kiss/Fotos: Nelly Rodriguez