Aircraft rescheduling with cruise speed control
Airline operations are subject to frequent disruptions typically due to unexpected aircraft maintenance requirements and undesirable weather conditions. Recovery from a disruption often involves propagating delays in downstream flights and increasing cruise stage speed when possible in an effort to contain the delays. However, there is a critical trade-off between fuel consumption (and its adverse impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions) and cruise speed. Here we consider delays caused by such disruptions and propose a flight rescheduling model that includes adjusting cruise stage speed on a set of affected and unaffected flights as well as swapping aircraft optimally. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study in which the cruise speed is explicitly included as a decision variable into an airline recovery optimization model along with the environmental constraints and costs. The proposed model allows one to investigate the trade-off between flight delays and the cost of recovery. We show that the optimization approach leads to significant cost savings compared to the popular recovery method delay propagation. Flight time controllability, nonlinear delay, fuel burn and CO2 emission cost functions, and binary aircraft swapping decisions complicate the aircraft recovery problem significantly. In order to mitigate the computational difficulty we utilize the recent advances in conic mixed integer programming and propose a strengthened formulation so that the nonlinear mixed integer recovery optimization model can be solved efficiently. Our computational tests on realistic cases indicate that the proposed model may be used by operations controllers to manage disruptions in real time in an optimal manner instead of relying on ad-hoc heuristic approaches.