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Modeling flight delay propagation: A new analytical-econometric approach

Nabin Kafle and Bo Zou

Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, 2016, vol. 93, issue PA, 520-542

Abstract: Flight delay presents a widespread phenomenon in the air transportation system, costing billions of dollars every year. Some delay originating from an upstream flight spreads to downstream flights. This phenomenon is defined as delay propagation. To understand the delay propagation patterns and associated mitigation measures, this study proposes a novel analytical-econometric approach. Considering that airlines deliberately insert buffer into flight schedules and ground turnaround operations, an analytical model is developed to quantify propagated and newly formed delays that occur to each sequence of flights that an aircraft flies in a day, from three perspectives on the ways that delays are absorbed by the buffer. With delays computed from the analytical model, we further develop a joint discrete-continuous econometric model and use the Heckman's two-step procedure to reveal the effects of various influencing factors on the initiation and progression of propagated delays. Results from the econometric analysis provide estimates on how much propagated delay will be generated out of each minute of newly formed delay, for the US domestic aviation system as well as for individual major airports and airlines. The impacts of various factors on the initiation and progression of propagated delay are quantified. These results may help aviation system planners gain additional insights into flight delay propagation patterns and consequently prioritize resource allocation while improving system overall performance. Airlines can also be better informed to assign buffer to their flight schedules to mitigate delay propagation.

Keywords: Propagated delay; Newly formed delay; Flight buffer; Ground buffer; Analytical model; Joint discrete-continuous econometric model (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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