Flight Gate Assignment and Proactive Flight Gate Reassignment Optimization for Hub and Spoke Airline Operations



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The flight gate assignment problem is encountered by gate managers at an airport on a periodic basis. This assignment should be made in such as way so as to balance the perspectives of the airline and customer simultaneously, while providing buffers for disrupting unexpected events. In this dissertation, a binary integer multicommodity gate flow network model is presented for finding the optimum flight-gate assignment with the objective of both minimizing the fuel burn cost of aircraft taxi by type and the expected walking distance of connecting passengers magnified by time windows. While this network formulation is efficient, a heuristic approach of grouping gates into zones and sub-zones is developed for large-problem instances in which non-polynomial complexity becomes prohibitive. This formulation and heuristic application is demonstrated for the gating of scheduled flights of Continental Airlines at George W. Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (IAH).

Reassignments of flights occur when scheduled flight gate assignments are disrupted, causing flight gate conflicts due to flight delays. Flight delays are caused by a host of problems, such as inclement weather, tardy crews, mechanical problems, tardy passengers, airport security issues, airport congestion, delay propagation between airports, etc. In this dissertation, a Binary Integer Program is formulated for the optimal reassignment of planes to gates in response to day-of flight delays. This program minimizes the total walking distance of those connecting and originating passengers whose boarding passes for reassigned flights were issued prior to the gate reassignments, which can cause passenger disruption at the airport. A numerical illustration is shown for actual operations of Continental Airlines at George W. Bush Intercontinental Airport to exhibit the speed and efficiency of the model.