Large-scale mixed integer optimization approaches for scheduling airline operations under irregularity

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Petersen, Jon D.
Clarke, John-Paul B.
Johnson, Ellis L.
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Perhaps no single industry has benefited more from advancements in computation, analytics, and optimization than the airline industry. Operations Research (OR) is now ubiquitous in the way airlines develop their schedules, price their itineraries, manage their fleet, route their aircraft, and schedule their crew. These problems, among others, are well-known to industry practitioners and academics alike and arise within the context of the planning environment which takes place well in advance of the date of departure. One salient feature of the planning environment is that decisions are made in a frictionless environment that do not consider perturbations to an existing schedule. Airline operations are rife with disruptions caused by factors such as convective weather, aircraft failure, air traffic control restrictions, network effects, among other irregularities. Substantially less work in the OR community has been examined within the context of the real-time operational environment. While problems in the planning and operational environments are similar from a mathematical perspective, the complexity of the operational environment is exacerbated by two factors. First, decisions need to be made in as close to real-time as possible. Unlike the planning phase, decision-makers do not have hours of time to return a decision. Secondly, there are a host of operational considerations in which complex rules mandated by regulatory agencies like the Federal Administration Association (FAA), airline requirements, or union rules. Such restrictions often make finding even a feasible set of re-scheduling decisions an arduous task, let alone the global optimum. The goals and objectives of this thesis are found in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 provides an overview airline operations and the current practices of disruption management employed at most airlines. Both the causes and the costs associated with irregular operations are surveyed. The role of airline Operations Control Center (OCC) is discussed in which serves as the real-time decision making environment that is important to understand for the body of this work. Chapter 3 introduces an optimization-based approach to solve the Airline Integrated Recovery (AIR) problem that simultaneously solves re-scheduling decisions for the operating schedule, aircraft routings, crew assignments, and passenger itineraries. The methodology is validated by using real-world industrial data from a U.S. hub-and-spoke regional carrier and we show how the incumbent approach can dominate the incumbent sequential approach in way that is amenable to the operational constraints imposed by a decision-making environment. Computational effort is central to the efficacy of any algorithm present in a real-time decision making environment such as an OCC. The latter two chapters illustrate various methods that are shown to expedite more traditional large-scale optimization methods that are applicable a wide family of optimization problems, including the AIR problem. Chapter 4 shows how delayed constraint generation and column generation may be used simultaneously through use of alternate polyhedra that verify whether or not a given cut that has been generated from a subset of variables remains globally valid. While Benders' decomposition is a well-known algorithm to solve problems exhibiting a block structure, one possible drawback is slow convergence. Expediting Benders' decomposition has been explored in the literature through model reformulation, improving bounds, and cut selection strategies, but little has been studied how to strengthen a standard cut. Chapter 5 examines four methods for the convergence may be accelerated through an affine transformation into the interior of the feasible set, generating a split cut induced by a standard Benders' inequality, sequential lifting, and superadditive lifting over a relaxation of a multi-row system. It is shown that the first two methods yield the most promising results within the context of an AIR model.
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