Air-traffic demand and capacity during bad weather

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What should airlines and air traffic controllers do to structure flights when airspace is reduced due to bad weather? A new paper from the recent aviation themed Transportation Research Record (no. 2325) examines that question. In "Mechanisms for Equitable Resource Allocation When Airspace Capacity Is Reduced," researchers from University of Maryland explore how carriers can prioritize flights. 

During bad weather and under other capacity-reducing restrictions, FAA uses various initiatives to manage air traffic flow to alleviate problems associated with imbalanced demand and capacity. A recently introduced alternative concept to airspace flow programs is the collaborative trajectory options program, in which aircraft operators are allowed to submit sets of alternative trajectory options for their flights, with accompanying cost estimates. It is not clear that these sets of alternative trajectory options can be generated or evaluated quickly enough to respond to flow programs that arise unexpectedly or that the program is intended to be folded into a formal resource allocation mechanism. This research proposes (a) a meaningful, yet simple, way for carriers to express some preference structure for their flights that are specifically affected by flow programs and (b) a resource allocation mechanism that will improve system efficiency and simultaneously take these airline preferences into account. The results are compared with the events that could occur if an airspace flow program were run by using a ration-by-schedule approach, with or without the opportunity for carriers to engage in swaps among their own flights.

The full paper can be found here