As booking flights and checking in at airports has become a quicker and simpler experience, few of us understand that a very complex system focused around schedules and flight operations has been put in place for us to be able to leave on time.
In fact, airline schedules are core to the financial performance of each individual airline and this is a process that requires a balance between different key elements such as demand and traffic, competitors and regulators and operational resources.
Last month, the Amadeus Operational Research & Innovation team (ORI) in Nice organised a full day conference to present and debate a range of specific issues related to schedule development and the many challenges and priorities which each airline faces.
To this end, Professor Cynthia Barnhart, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Boston, Professor Amy Cohn, University of Michigan, and Professor Diego Klabjan, University of Northwestern presented the very latest research and scientific challenges in the scheduled development area.
This conference aimed to provide a better understanding of how airline schedules are developed as well as open issues and scientific challenges including:
- How to create more ‘robust’ schedules that are more resilient to disruptions
- Integrating and coordinating different resources such as maintenance, aircraft, crew, passengers, cargo
- What can be predicted and what cannot given the volatility of demand and traffic
- Understanding how to differentiate the best code share flights to request or offer
Today, there are essentially three scientific approaches. The first one focuses on bringing together more perspectives within a single integrated decision and involves increasingly rich models to do so; the second aims to make operation more ‘savvy’ relying on a mix of OR (Operations and Research) and analytics to obtain a better anticipation of events; the third is to produce plans that will hold out no matter what events take place in terms of aircraft defects or actual customer bookings.
These areas of research were presented to a packed auditorium; it was a great opportunity to take a closer look at one of the most complex elements in an airline’s operation and enjoy listening to three professors from leading universities from around the US.