An overview of network structures and node importance in the global aviation system from the year 2011 to 2022

Zanin, Massimiliano; Wandelt, Sebastian
Journal of the Air Transport Research Society 1, 63-80 (2023)

The aviation system is an essential constituent for human mobility in the 21st century. Accordingly, better understanding the underlying - possibly hidden - characteristics is one of the key challenges in air transport research. Network science has developed into a key domain for analyzing complex, inter-connected systems, with many studies having used network science techniques to dissect the universal patterns by the abstraction into a network-like structure. After more than two decades of aviation network analysis - the earliest influential papers date back to the early 2000s, providing a synopsis of the existing techniques and assessing the relevant characteristics on the global aviation system is judicious and helpful for the entire air transport community. In this study, we make three major contributions. First, we review the existing literature on complex network analysis of aviation system, having appeared in the past two decades, identifying key trends in the analysis and their results. Second, we provide a data-driven, network science-based analysis of the global aviation system and two of its variants for period from 2011 to 2022, leading to one of the most comprehensive studies in the literature. At the core of our analysis is the task of identifying node importance and answering the question how well complex network-based methods help to reveal the critical nodes in the system. Third, we derive a set of relevant research directions which we deem instrumental for advancing our understanding of global aviation and its subsystems through the lens of network science. We believe that our study provides a unique combination of biographical synopsis and data-driven analysis for the evolution of our global aviation system.

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