Characterization of delay propagation in the airport network

Pablo Fleurquin1,2, José J. Ramasco1 and Victor M. Eguiluz1
1Instituto de Física Interdisciplinar y Sistemas Complejos IFISC (CSIC-UIB), Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
2Innaxis Foundation and Research Institute, José Ortega y Gasset 20, 28006 Madrid, Spain.

(April 2013)

Complex networks provide a suitable framework to model air traffic. Previous works described the world air-traffic network as a graph with direct flights between airports as edges and passenger commercial airports as vertices. In this work we study the US airport network, in the time period 2005-2011. We characterize the topological structure of the network and identify how the plane rotations adjust to it. The reactionary delays are supposed to propagate following the structure of this network. We analyze the properties of flight delays including the total distribution of delays, the delays per day of the week and the hour-by-hour evolution of the delays within each day. We pay special attention to the long-delayed flights, those accumulating delays longer than 12 hours, and study when and where this type of incidences is most common. The goal of this work is to gain a better understanding of the factors contributing to the reactionary delay propagation with the aim of developing models able to realistically simulate the delay propagation. This investigation is expected to help devise more efficient strategies for delay management, both from the point of view of ATM (e.g., flight prioritization criteria) and of airline planning (e.g., robust scheduling).