2 days to significant cost savings at Aer Lingus

At Irish airline Aer Lingus, data is crucial to scheduling pilots and crew, meeting costs, and maintaining safe planes. In this video, Production Planning Manager Jonathan Capper discusses how Tableau helps him become a “one-man band” of data visualization.

It's a must-have. Anyone that's involved with data analysis and investigating data, you have to have this tool. It is so powerful—it's transformative.

Tableau: Is Tableau a big part of your day-to-day work?
Jonathan Capper, Production Planning Manager: I don't think I could envisage me working without having Tableau. It's a must-have. Anyone that's involved with data analysis and investigating data, you have to have this tool. It is so powerful—it's transformative.

Tableau: Can you describe your job to me?
Jonathan: I am the production planning manager of Aer Lingus, Irish airline, Irish flag carrier. We look after basically the cabin crew, the flight operations, pilots—essentially the rostering, the planning and have a role in terms of the maintenance engineering. We try to deliver the lowest cost per seat for our passengers to make sure that essentially we're a competitive airline going forward.

Tableau: How long have you been there?
Jonathan: When I started, I was looking at basically the engine model, which was essentially looking at trying to optimize the value to Aer Lingus for the contract we have on that airline. So that was a very big spreadsheet, about 50 megabytes. It took about three weeks just to try and document the file, understand what it was, and it was a huge task. There's over a million different formulae in the spreadsheet. So it's huge.

And we realized that we could actually save money by connecting the planning process, the daily planning process, with what we want to do in terms of delivering more activity on certain aircraft and less on others.

And I said, 'Well, could I get access and use Tableau?' I'd seen it and said I wanted to get my hands on it. It was great. So I was then able to be a one-man-band in terms of looking at activity and developing dashboards, worksheets, whatever. I mean I think I have about a 60-page workbook that eventually evolved over a two or three month period, to really just see what was happening with each aircraft and each group of aircraft. And it evolved as I was tinkering with it.

Tableau: Did using Tableau lead to any discoveries?
Jonathan: The interesting thing was, we thought we were doing well, and then we discovered there was this big negative cost. It was like, 'oh my God.' Suddenly you go and say, 'Okay, I've discovered a new aspect of engine cost that we hadn't realized.'

Suddenly you're going, 'Bang, bang, bang, two minutes in Tableau” and you can see the average per month, the average per day, and it's like, “Oh, wow—we can do this slightly differently.'

Within two days, I'd literally re-worked the whole instruction, sent it out to people, and off we went. As a result, it’s been a very significant difference in terms of U.S. dollars.

Tableau: How is Tableau different than other tools?
Jonathan: I’ve spent probably 15-20 years summarizing data in Excel and getting it out there.

And the knowledge that what I wanted to do is be free and unchain myself from the computer and actually analyze and liberate and actually educate, because that’s essentially what you can do. You can show the trends, the graphical power is completely liberating. And actually it's more of an artistic experience.

The flexibility you have is remarkable. It is limitless. I think it is extremely powerful and I would thoroughly recommend it.