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Passengers are all too familiar with certain members of staff working in the travel industry who help to bring holiday dreams to life. From pilots to cabin crew, there are plenty of faces familiar to the inflight experience.
However, a Virgin Atlantic employee has lifted the curtain on what goes on behind the scenes.
It turns out there is one job, which according to the airline employee, is the “coolest job” Virgin Atlantic has to offer.
What’s more, without this hidden yet vital role, passengers would not be able to jet off anywhere at all.
Rikke Christiansen, is Vice President of Networks, Alliances and Commercial Planning with the airline owned by Sir Richard Branson.
“I think I have one of the coolest jobs because what we do in my team, we work with where we fly – the destinations, what aircraft type, what time, what routes to open, what routes to close,” she explained in the tenth episode of Virgin Atlantic’s Flight School on Instagram.
Though her role is imperative in getting planes off the ground, she thinks it is one that is rarely even considered by holidaymakers.
Ms Christiansen says her team handle “all of the things many passengers don’t think about what they go on an aeroplane”.
She continued: “They see the frontline staff, but a lot of the details, there’s work behind to actually get that flight up for sale and then flying, starting from my team.
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“That is why I like to think of us as the heart of the company, where it all begins.”
The Networks, Alliances and Commercial Planning department are tasked with selecting which routes the airline should fly, identifying popular hotspots and new markets to break into, and which planes should take on these routes.
“We are talking about what aircraft type we should have,” she said.
“How many seats should we have in the business class or in economy?
“What time should it fly?
“How can we open a new route or new markets? What are the new trends? So it is not just numbers.”
Ms Christiansen detailed: “On a normal day we look at how we can create the productions of the aircraft.
“That is everything from thinking about what time it should depart from a destination, and arrive, what aircraft type, we calculate how many passenger we think there will be onboard.
“We calculate how much they will spend and revenue we will get on the flight and the costs. And we are doing these business cases. We are looking at strategic projects – where should we be in two, three, four, five years?”
The role is one that works in tandem with the flight crew, ground staff and even airport workers.
“We work a lot with a lot of colleagues in operation, making sure that the flying programme we put together can be executed. With pilots, with cabin crew.
“All of those visibilities you don’t think about when you sit on an aeroplane that happens behind the scenes.
“We are working with many of our colleagues because it starts from where we fly and we need to make sure that what we plan can be executed.”
Of course, the job at hand is not always easy, and one small slip could mean devastation for passengers.
“It is small details that people don’t think about that has a significant impact,” said the Virgin Atlantic insider.
“For example, if we are moving one flight it could mean that a passenger was supposed to fly, let’s say from India to the US via London Heathrow if we move one of the flights that may be no longer possible.
“Even small time changes can have a significant impact.
“On top of that, there are a lot of rules in the industry that you need to know and need to learn.
“For example, the aircraft type, the exact arrival and departure time, the capacity of the airport, in security, in check-in, we don’t just have free hands to plan our flying programme.
“There are a lot of restrictions, a lot of small details that need to fit together in a bigger puzzle.
“When we do make changes it can have a very big impact.
“So we think about these very carefully and test them very carefully before we implement.”
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