Planning for Robust Airline Operations: Optimizing Aircraft Routings and Flight Departure Times to Minimize Passenger Disruptions

Shan Lan; Clarke, John-Paul; Barnhart, Cynthia
February 2006
Transportation Science;Feb2006, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p15
Academic Journal
Airlines typically construct their schedules assuming that every flight leg will depart and arrive as planned. Because this optimistic scenario rarely occurs, these plans are frequently disrupted and airlines often incur significant costs in addition to those originally planned. Flight delays and schedule disruptions also cause passenger delays and disruptions. A more robust plan can reduce the occurrence and impact of these delays, thereby reducing costs. In this paper, we present two new approaches to minimize passenger disruptions and achieve robust airline schedule plans. The first approach involves routing aircraft, and the second involves retiming flight departure times. Because each airplane usually flies a sequence of flight legs, delay of one flight leg might propagate along the aircraft route to downstream flight legs and cause further delays and disruptions. We propose a new approach to reduce delay propagation by intelligently routing aircraft. We formulate this problem as a mixed-integer programming problem with stochastically generated inputs. An algorithmic solution approach is presented. Computational results obtained using data from a major U.S. airline show that our approach can reduce delay propagation significantly, thus improving on-time performance and reducing the numbers of passengers disrupted. Our second area of research considers passengers who miss their flight legs due to insufficient connection time. We develop a new approach to minimize the number of passenger misconnections by retiming the departure times of flight legs within a small time window. We formulate the problem and an algorithmic solution approach is presented. Computational results obtained using data from a major U.S. airline show that this approach can substantially reduce the number of passenger misconnections without significantly increasing operational costs.


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