How efficient is air transport? A network perspective

Visa Scheimann, Daniel (supervisor: Zanin, Massimiliano)
Master Thesis (2023)

Air transport is a complex system regulated at different levels, e.g. from the micro-scale decisions taken by each pilot following procedures and regulations, up to macro-scale rules about how flights have to be planned and executed. One of the foundations of the European air system is its free market nature. The basic idea is that, by leaving the design of the network structure to airlines, these will try to answer the needs of passengers as efficiently as possible, thus resulting in an overall efficient system. It is nevertheless important to note that airline compete, and not necessarily cooperate, between them; following the idea of the well-known Nash equilibrium, this may create solutions that are locally optimal, but sub-optimal from the point of view of passengers.
In this work we will analyse what would happen if this scenario were to change. Specifically, we will tackle two hypotheses: i) airlines have to cooperate in the case of multiple flights with the same destination and near in time, for instance by merging them; and ii) flights are scheduled at random. The latter analysis will thus tell us how optimised is the present system with respect to a random situation; the former, whether it can further be improved. In both cases, the study will rely on the reconstruction of flight networks from a large data set of historical operations; and on minimal models quantifying the European mobility.

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