Fasten Your Seat Belt: Lean Airlines Ahead

September 4, 2018
Fasten Your Seat Belt: Lean Airlines Ahead

Airlines have started to implement lean operations concepts to cut costs and improve customer experiences.  The article applies lean service operations by recommending a ten-point checklist to common aspects of airline travel.

One tip: get rid of the problematic “box” often used to size carry-on luggage. Because gate agents know the box isn’t a good judge of what bags will fit, they use their own (variable) judgment instead. Instead, the authors recommend a height line marked on the poles at the boarding line.

Check out the article for other tips, and an engaging, interactive model.

This post is based on the McKinsey article, Does your airline still cross seat belts? A ten-point lean checklist for leaders, by Alex Dichter, Robin Riedel, Ron Ritter, and Steve Saxon, August 2018. Image source: Gene Chutka/E+/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. Explore the interactive model in the article. Which of the ten items is likely to provide the most productivity improvement?  Which of the ten items is likely to cost the most to implement?

Guidance: Students should review the concepts of service delivery, service quality, and lean operations.  Suggest having students rank order the most productive points listed along with their rationale for their ranking. Then, have students do the same for their assessment of the costliest implementation items presented.  Do the most productive solutions also tend to be the costliest? It is a good way to get students to reflect on their choices and to conceptually link lean operations to increased productivity.

2. What other checklist items are missing, to improve lean operations at an airline? For example, how can food service be improved in-flight to become more lean but potentially improve service quality?

Guidance: Students should review service quality concepts.  Ask students to define service quality of in-flight food service.  Students should then apply lean concepts to improve productivity of providing in-flight food services while meeting the service quality previously defined by the class.


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