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ECO - Crew Pairing and Assignment System

Business Optimization


ECO is a powerful, user-friendly crew pairing and assignment system, designed to meet the rigorous and dynamic requirements of commercial airlines. ECO is the result of intensive collaborative research and development by IBM Research - Haifa and El Al Israel Airlines Ltd.

ECO uses advanced technologies and intensive on-site developments to solve the problems of scheduling cockpit and cabin crew, and balancing workloads and benefits among individual employees, while minimizing costs for management and operation.

Using ECO's comprehensive and integrated functions, airline planning professionals can automatically generate monthly flight plans at a minimum cost. Users of ECO can expect monthly savings of 3 to 8% off the operational costs of crew pairing and assignment.

The ECO modular design seamlessly integrates three subsystems:

  • Pairing: Creates the most favorable pairing sequences of duties and rest periods away from home.
  • Assignment: Assigns crew to the optimized pairings.
  • Data Manager: Manages the flow of data, such as which captains fly which model of airplane, employee overtime, special requests, rules for rest, and which airplanes are needed for specific flights.

Each subsystem is accessed through a consistent and highly intuitive GUI, which seamlessly oversees and controls the flow of data from the ECO databases.

Practical Uses

ECO takes El Al's problems of flights, duties and pairings, time and space dimensions, and billions of combinations and creates a solution to meet the airline's objectives. This solution satisfies the legal criteria of duties and rest, completes flight schedule coverage, minimizes costs, and optimizes use of resources.

Every airline company adheres to different rules making it hard to create one standardized scheduling program. These rules can include different requirements for rest, number of crew aboard the plane, and retiring age of captains.

IBM is about solutions and in striving for a solution to this universal scheduling problem, ECO can be customized for other airlines and the rules they follow.