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Scheduling a future air transport system

The global air transport system has changed dramatically following the first scheduled passenger flight on January 1st 1914 from St Petersburg, Florida to Tampa. In 2009 4.76 trillion revenue passenger kilometres were flown on 14,240 passenger aircraft from more than 1000 airports. Many of these journeys were operated with Airbus manufactured aircraft.

During 2010 European air travellers experienced widespread disruption as a result of scalding volcanic eruptions and freezing snow falls. The complex and complicated nature of modern transport systems became exposed as the heart beat of timetables slowed and went out of rhythm. Edwards Lorenz’s butterfly effect was observed... albeit with an aluminium equivalent.

These disruptions to the global air transport system will probably occur again. The ability to understand current timetables and forecast their future evolution would significantly improve the robustness and resilience of daily aircraft operations. It would also allow Airbus to provide their customers with fleet solutions that maximize and sustain their future profitability.

Airlines currently rely on connecting traffic to fill up their aircraft, hub-and-spoke being the most popular business model to ensure traffic capture. This is often characterized as a series of waves arriving at ordeparting from airports.

Airbus is looking for elegant and simple mathematical solutions to represent the schedules and robustness of the air transport systems of tomorrow.


Problem presented by:
Andy Williams, Airbus

Study Group contributors:
David Barton (University of Bristol)
Wei Liu (University of Southampton)
Karina Piwarska (University of Warsaw)
John Schofield (University of East Anglia)
Wiktor Woytylak (WIT)
Michal Zajac (Slovak University of Technology)
Rushen Patel (Industrial Mathematics KTN)



Related resources:

Problem brief

Initial Presentation

Final presentation

Final report

Other transport projects

Other Study Group projects


Background reading:  

An article on increasing passenger numbers in capacity-constrained airports.

A presentation on Quality of Service Index.

A paper about hub & spoke scheduling.

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