Inside American and Southwest airlines’ operations centers: Keeping flights running smoothly

FORT WORTH, Texas — Just down the street from American Airlines’ shiny new world headquarters stands a building with hurricane-proof glass windows hardened to withstand wind gusts of up to 165 mph. 

This is where American coordinates its more than 6,700 daily flights to some 350 destinations worldwide. Staffed 24 hours a day every day, the Robert W. Baker Integrated Operations Center opened after American and US Airways merged in 2015.

At the 500 work stations are team members representing every department needed to get a flight to its destination safely and on time, reports The Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. Cargo, baggage, maintenance, meteorology, crew scheduling — even social media has a spot on the bridge so it can give real-time feedback on how flight operations are affecting customers.

Off to the side is a separate command center where emergency coordinating takes place. Airline representatives say the last time they needed to use the room was when the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. The plane has been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes, on Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines, in five months that killed 346 people.

American needed to get its Max 8s out of the air immediately.

Though it is the heart of American’s flight operations, the building is surprisingly quiet inside. To help maintain concentration, phones do not ring. Instead, lights flash above each work station, signaling if a colleague is available or on the phone.

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Southwest Airlines’ operations center is across town at Love Field in Dallas. It coordinates more than 3,900 flights daily and the atmosphere is just as quiet. Instead of bright fluorescent lights, soft blue lights create a calming effect in a high-intensity workplace. 

melissa.yeager@azcentral.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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