Smaller Airline Batches Hurt the System?
Here's a free version of an article that originally appeared in the WSJ last week. Going back to the book Lean Thinking, Womack and Jones talked about their desire for more “point to point” air travel in small planes, rather than huge planes (like the Airbus A380) going through “hub and spoke” systems, that they compared to “batch and queue” manufacturing systems (very un-Lean). There has even been development of “air taxi” services that would take this concept to more of an extreme (I hope they'd be more comfortable than your typical RJ).
But, even with the increased use of Regional Jets, there are strains on airport infrastructure and the Air Traffic Control system. Granted, some of this is due to the use of RJ's on hub and spoke routes, giving more flight options (smaller planes, higher frequency), compared to larger batches (larger planes, fewer flights per day). The airlines say they're following customer demand to have more flights, but some experts are calling for “bigger batches.”
“Promoting larger aircraft is the only means to increase passenger access to La Guardia,” said the FAA proposal.
Do we need bigger batches or do we need to fix the system so we can accommodate smaller batches? Which Lean principles would you apply? Smaller batches seems Lean, but you can't exceed airport capacity (not Lean).