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Rethinking Flight Schedules for the Post-Pandemic World

Jul 24, 2020   |   by Vikrant Vaze   |   SIAM News

"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had severe debilitating effects on the travel industry, with air transportation in particular feeling the pandemic’s onslaught. After a precipitous drop in air travel during the early phases of the pandemic, demand is finally showing some signs of recovery. However, industry experts and academic researchers predict major disruptions and transformations in a post-pandemic world, perhaps including increased hygienic operating procedures for passenger and crew safety and reconfigured aircraft seating to allow for social distancing," writes Vikrant Vaze, the Stata Family Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering at Dartmouth, in a piece in SIAM News about rethinking flight schedules.

"Early signs also indicate a strong possibility of three additional lasting effects: significant rethinking of aircraft fleets by the airlines themselves; major redesign of flight networks and schedules; and a dramatic, long-term shift in passenger travel demand patterns, which may necessitate the two preceding effects. These modifications may lead travelers and the industry to wonder whether financially sustainable airlines will continue to offer convenient and affordable long-distance travel options in a post-pandemic world.

"Just before the pandemic, I co-authored a paper in Transportation Science in which my collaborators and I investigated whether it would be possible to design—from scratch—profitable flight schedules that align well with passenger preferences. Flight schedule design refers to the decisions surrounding how many airplanes of each type (e.g. Boeing 737, Airbus 320, etc.) will depart and arrive at which airports, and at what times. We believe our research on this matter is applicable in a post-pandemic world as well."

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