The first part of the event organized by Air France for Flyertalkers on 26 & 27th April consisted in a visit of the Hub Control Center. A good opportunity to understand better how complex the organization of a hub is !

CDG, Air France Hub

As we all know, CDG Airport is the Air France main hub. The French airline represents 52% of the overall traffic of CDG !

Here are some other interesting key figures of Air France at CDG :

  • 790 daily flights
  • 32 Million passengers p.a.
  • Until 129 000 customers at the same time in the airport
  • 52% of the passengers are in connection
  • 33 000 luggages in connection to handle
  • Goal : 97% of successful connection
A380-800 Air France parked at Terminal 2E, Satellite 3 © Sophie Figenwald

Organization of the Hub

But what does the word « hub » exactly mean ? Actually, the airport can simply be seen as a connection platform. The goal is to multiply connection opportunities by creating slots of high-activity.

At CDG airport for Air France, days are divided in 6 different slots. For example the first slot of the day begins at 5:25 am and ends three hours later at 8:25. It corresponds to the arrival of long-haul flights. In 3 hours, passengers land and without having to wait can take another flight (mainly medium or short-haul flights) to continue their trip. At the end of the day, it is the contrary. Passengers from short- and medium-haul flights land and can directly board their long-haul flight.

Air France-KLM network from the Hub of CDG © Corporate Air France

The missions of the Hub Control Center

Knowing now that there are 790 flights per day and 6 slots, we can easily imagine how complex the organization is. What happens to the luggages during the connection of their owners ? How will Air France manage the delay of a flight when passengers of this flight are then in connection ? Will they delay all planes ? And in case of bad weather conditions, how will this be managed ?

All decisions are made in the Hub Control Center. It was opened in March 2007 to achieve several missions :

  • Manage punctuality
  • Improve successful connection of both passengers and luggages
  • Improve processes and reduce costs

In addition to these missions, the HCC also leads a performance measurement. They sometimes focus on a specific stopover to lead some tests of improvement and once the airline is totally satisfied with them,the new measure can be implemented to other stopovers and so on !

Organization of the HCC

The HCC is divided into two different parts. The first one is related to all the commercial activity (passengers in connection…) and the second one deals with the overall coordination and ramp activities.

You have to keep in mind that the HCC is in charge of approximately everything, excepted what is linked to taxiing for example. From cleaning and refuelling, catering services from Servair, services for passengers with reduced mobility to the police with the border controls. Air France also manages the parking spaces. It is the airline itself which decides where it places its aircrafts; this can be very helpful as we will see later.

The working place is organized as an open-space. Very useful to be sure that everyone around hear crucial information !

Inside the Hub Control Center, from the Coordination part of the room
Another perspective of the HCC

Interesting to know…

  • What will Air France do for passengers in connection if they come from another delayed flight ?

Air France and the HCC have several possibilities when a plane lands in Paris in delay to allow passengers in connection not to miss their next flight.

First of all, in case of not too dramatic delays (15 minutes), some Air France agents called « voltigeurs » in French (I guess we can traduce it in English as « acrobat ») can take in charge passengers arrived lately as soon as they come out of their plane. Their mission is to « take them by the hand » to go as quickly as possible through the airport to their next flight. I would have really been curious to meet one of them to know more about their job !

Secondly, as we saw earlier, Air France decides of the parking space attributed to its aircrafts. In case of a bigger delay than before, the HCC can make the decision to park the delayed flight in which there are 20 people in connection for Singapore for example, right next to the aircraft for Singapore. The 20 passengers and their luggages will then directly board their next flight without delaying it !

Finally, in case of a too important delay if the connection is not possible, Air France does everything it can to reroute its passengers proposing them the more convenient solutions.

  • The Apron Manager/Responsable Zone Avion we knew in the past doesn’t exist anymore in CDG !

I discovered during this tour that the Apron Manager doesn’t exist anymore. Or at least, the job as we knew it. In fact at CDG, the person responsible for all the stopover of an aircraft is not on the tarmac anymore. This person is here, in the HCC having an eye on different screens to know exactly where each participant to the preparation of the aircraft is, thanks to GPS system. Another agent on the ground is his eyes to see what he can’t on his screens. The coordination is then easier and allows to have an eye (almost) everywhere !

Screens of a « new » Apron Manager

And this is how this first tour ends…

I hope you now know better how the CDG Hub of Air France is managed and how it requires that everyone works together to achieve common goals !

Don’t miss the tour of the OCC – Operation Control Center I made last february. Here is the article (in french, sorry for non-french speaking !) Le jour où j’ai visité le siège d’Air France et rencontré le PDG !

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