Running an airline is a hugely complicated business and mistakes can be very costly. The SkyChess game allows teams to test and build their skills virtually first.

SkyChess has been developed by Through The Looking Glass, a husband-and-wife team of Judith and Paul Clark. Paul spent 20 years working in Airbus’ commercial team, giving him an insight into the world of airline operations.

Paul said: “We have sold SkyChess to the OEMs as well as airlines. It consists of three teams, each representing a [fictional] airline, and they play in a marketplace against each other. So, they have to make decisions about pricing, about their marketing activities, about the operation scheduling, all those things.

“An operations person can learn about financing and a maintenance person can learn about operations, for example. It’s a great way of getting to grips with how the airline industry actually works, in a very short period of time.”

Judith added: “I’m in charge of leasing aircraft to the players. I’m also in charge of fuel hedging, so they have to make those negotiations with myself. I’m also there generally, to help them get through the game, as I’ve picked up quite a few pointers along the way.”

Learning through doing

Paul regularly teaches on aviation post-graduate programmes at the University of Surrey, Emirates Aviation University and City, University of London, where the SkyChess game is also used.

He commented: “I’ve always felt that these kind of degrees, MSC degrees in aviation and air transport management, are vital to have a successful career in business.”

He added: “It’s great fun, because you’re not actually in a classroom environment; you’re actually having to make the kind of decisions airlines really make. And no two games are alike, because you never know where the game is going to go. So, the people learn a great deal by doing things…you’re actually sitting around a table, negotiating your position and building your business. That’s what makes it so much fun.”

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