Aeroplane failure, supply chain issues and a great exam question!

On the way to our Inghams skiing holiday in Corvara, we got to Gatwick painlessly, checked in, sailed through customs... and then we sat in the departure lounge, the Monarch Airlines plane visible outside. When there was no announcement, with 20 minutes to go before scheduled departure, the worries started, and to cut a long story short, there was a technical failure on the plane which meant we were delayed by 5 hours. That's a long time to spend in an airport.

When we eventually got called back for boarding, a man in a collar and tie and a high visibility jacket was hanging around, so I deduced he might be worth talking to. And he was – turned out he was the Monarch Airlines duty manager. To give him credit, he was very apologetic but happy to give me the full story of the delay.

During final checks, the emergency lights in the cabin couldn't be switched off. A failure in an electrical component was identified but – and this is where the interesting supply chain stuff comes in – Monarch didn't have it in stock at Gatwick. They identified that Virgin Airlines had the part – but at Heathrow. And given the  time that it would have taken to get the part from Heathrow to Gatwick, through the Virgin and Monarch logistics processes, the decision was made to use another Monarch plane that was due in later and call in a new crew for that (a different pilot was needed as it was a Boeing rather than an Airbus).

Just to round off the experience, two idiot passengers didn't realise we were finally departing and kept us waiting another 30 minutes on the plane at the gate. Then we found that there was no bar available, because the bar trolley on the Airbus doesn’t fit the Boeing (not sure I fully understood that logic…). We did get a £10 voucher each to spend in the terminal though. Lovely.

So, here's a great case study for the next CIPS – or is it CILT – examination.  Here are some suggested questions….

  • What were the additional costs for Monarch and / or Inghams arising from this incident? Include both direct and indirect costs.
  • Describe the analysis that Monarch should have carried out to determine whether that part should have been held at Gatwick?
  • What other contingency plans might Monarch have put in place if the part was not to be kept in stock?
  • What contract and supplier management provisions might Inghams put in place with Monarch (their sub-contractor) to drive appropriate performance from Monarch ?
  • What opportunities might exist for airlines to collaborate to improve efficiency and customer service in the field of parts management?
  • How does this incident demonstrate the hidden costs of non-standardized equipment?

We'll give you our answers shortly!

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