Predictive analytics in airline operations

  • This dissertation investigates the application of machine learning to improve decision making in airline operations. In an introductory overview, we1 discuss the airline industry and the challenges of decision making in airline operations: e. g., complex IT infrastructure, interconnected resources, delay management, fuel price volatility and future environmental regulation. Machine learning can efficiently integrate a large volume of data from a variety of data sources and formats to generate accurate predictions. To assess the viability of using machine learning models for decision making in airline operations, we develop a model based on linear regression and gradient boosting to predict aircraft arrival time. Furthermore, we integrate cost index optimization to model the impact of aircraft speed on arrival time. While we find that machine learning can improve prediction accuracy by more than 30 %, the optimal cost index varies according to fuel cost, flight distance and delay costs. We propose an overall reduction in cost index for short-haul flights to reduce fuel cost while maintaining punctual operations. Arrival time predictions serve as input for daily operations planning and control. For network carriers accurate arrival time predictions are key for efficient hub operations. In a next step, we focus on aircraft arrival time prediction for intercontinental flights. We analyze the accuracy of en-route weather data provided by the flight plan, generate features based on en-route weather data and integrate them in our prediction model. We evaluate three machine learning models: linear regression, random forest and gradient boosting. Through our approach, we can assess the impact of en-route weather data. Overall, an increase in prediction accuracy of 25 % is achieved. By including en-route weather data, prediction accuracy is improved by 5 %. Our model outlines the essential features for intercontinental arrival time predictions and assess the value of en-route weather data. Furthermore, we outline organizational challenges in implementing predictive analytics. Future environmental regulations are a challenge for the airline industry. From 2020 onwards net growth in CO2 emissions is prohibited. Thus, airlines need to focus on initiatives to limit fuel consumption. We develop a prediction model for fuel consumption considering ten different aircraft types. Our results show that fuel consumption can be improved by more than 30 % for short and long-haul flights resulting in an annual reduction of 10.5 million e in fuel costs and a reduction on green house gas emissions of 66.000 tons. Furthermore, we assess the pilots’ willingness to integrate our prediction model in their fuel decision. Our analysis shows that high prediction accuracy, model understanding and a long testing phase are essential for acceptance of the prediction model. The main implication is that decision making in airline operations can be substantially improved through machine learning. Therefore, more prediction. 1The term “we” refers to the authors of the respective chapters as denoted at the beginning of each chapter. For the abstract, this refers to the authors of Achenbach and Spinler (2018a,b), Achenbach et al. (2017).

Download full text files

Export metadata

Additional Services

Search Google Scholar Statistics
Author:Anna Achenbach
Subtitle (English):application of machine learning for arrival time and fuel consumption prediction
Publisher:WHU / Chair of Logistics Management
Place of publication:Vallendar
Referee:Stefan Spinler, Arnd Huchzermeier
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2021/01/11
Date of first Publication:2021/01/11
Publishing Institution:WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management
Granting Institution:WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management
Date of final exam:2018/11/16
Release Date:2021/01/11
Tag:Luftverkehr; Maschinelles Lernen; Prädiktive Analytik
Air transport; Machine learning; Predictive analytics
Page Number:94
Institutes:WHU Supply Chain Management Group / Kühne Foundation Endowed Chair of Logistics Management
Licence (German):Copyright this PhD thesis