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Alaska Airlines pioneers A.I. to plan flight routes, saving fuel and time

One morning last week, Alaska Airlines flight 1380 thundered down the runway of the Seattle-Tacoma Airport and ascended into clear blue skies, bound for San Diego. The flight pushed back from the gate five minutes ahead of its 6:10 a.m. scheduled departure time. But its journey really began several hours earlier, about a mile away from the airport, on the sixth floor of Alaska Airlines’ new steel and glass headquarters building, known as “The Hub.” ( Plus d'info...

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Robert Cowling 1
This is a sneaky way to add the fear of their job into the pilot's life. Some mindless software is going to chose where they fly, and 'optimize' how much fuel they carry, to squeeze a profit out of what is an incredibly erratic and chaotic business.

You can plan for everything, and over plan for what saves you money. We covered fuel during ground school. He new many commercial pilots, and at some airlines, they got flack for requesting more fuel on flights they felt they needed it for. Sure, sometimes they didn't need it, but the times they did, it wasn't like you can pull over and top off the tank.

This kind of AI is going to put 'getthereitis' back in the mind of pilots for that airline. 'You were supposed to land 20 minutes ago! Why haven't you landed yet!' 'Why did you do a go-around? this is costing us time and money!' 'Why did you wait for that noop issue to be dealt with? It wasn't deemed important!' 'You should have left 2 minutes ago, what's the delay!?'

And my suspicious mind wonders where else they are trying to 'save money'. Obviously maintenance is a HUGE cost, and many carriers have 'saved money' by delaying and sloppily performing maintenance. Many have been really lucky, but eventually their passengers pay the price.

I can see this being good for investors, more profit. I can see it potentially being bad for passengers as the need for profit is seeping into the cockpit again. Is it ironic that Alaska Airlines cheated on maintenance of their DC/MD fleet, and that conscious error, driven by the cost of the correct grease, cost real human lives, whose last minutes were spent in abject terror as the plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. INVERTED!
dee9bee 2
I read the article until I slammed into the paywall. As a retired Pilot, my first thought was that I'm NOT going to like the proposed fuel the 'robot' suggests, prompting a higher workload for the poor Dispatcher when I have to call to revise the fuel load.

A site called can cough up a ten day forecast for my location anywhere in the world. The other day, for my location, in eight days, there would be a 24% chance of rain...Yea, Right.

As for choosing preferential routes, based on winds, etc, that technology already exists.
ADXbear 5
As a licensed retired dispatcher, I can appreciate the us of AI. Most disputing over the years has been built on "canned routes" mostly because a Dispatcher has little time to spend on any single flight doing routing. Our time is best spent on safety and legality of a flight, keep the flight crews informed of sever weather etc..

But Major automation like this could establish a nasty precedence that airlines could use against FAA mandated use of dispatchers, or reduce the number therof..,
tom239 5
Please don't post paywalled articles. This one is paywalled after the first few paragraphs.
Robert Cowling 1
Some (many?) of their articles are available from other sources without the paywall. It takes some looking, but Ive been able to avoid padding their bottom line.

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