Thayer Engineers and MIT Create New Airline Scheduling Tool

The new tool could result in better flight options for consumers.

Read the full story by Julie Bonette, published by Thayer School of Engineering.

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The study's co-authors are, from left, Assistant Professor Vikrant Vaze, senior operations research analyst Keji Wei, Thayer '19, and MIT's Professor Alexandre Jacquillat.
The study's co-authors are, from left, Assistant Professor Vikrant Vaze, senior operations research analyst Keji Wei, Thayer '19, and MIT's Professor Alexandre Jacquillat. (Photo courtesy of Thayer School of Engineering)

Researchers from Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an original approach to flight scheduling that, if implemented, could result in a significant increase in profits for airlines and in the availability of flights that align with passengers' preferences.

The approach is presented in a paper, "Airline Timetable Development and Fleet Assignment Incorporating Passenger Choice," recently published in Transportation Science, the leading journal in the field of transportation analysis.

Some of the most critical decision-making steps taken by airlines across the world rely on tools that do not fully incorporate passengers' preferences and the dynamics of flight scheduling, resulting in missed profits and dissatisfied passengers, according to the authors.

The authors used 2016 data from Alaska Airlines to introduce an original, integrated optimization approach to comprehensive flight timetable management and fleet assignment while taking into consideration passengers' preferences, such as flight departure time.

"Beyond ticket prices, perhaps the biggest thing that air passengers care about is the convenience of flight schedule. Yet, due to the associated computational complexities, nobody has really tried to completely redesign an airline's flight schedule from scratch to take passenger preference into account," says co-author Vikrant Vaze, an assistant professor of engineering at Thayer.