The Impact of Airport Size on Service Continuity and Operational Performance
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This dissertation looks at the relationship between airport size (e.g. small, medium, large) and air service continuity and operational performance. It consists of three studies, each written in journal format. The first study analyzes the markets served pre- and post-recession while focusing on the operational strategies adopted by the top Major Carriers and Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) in the United States. Findings show that LCCs have outpaced major carriers in terms of expanding their network and the number of markets served. During the same time, major carriers have gained a greater flight share in the markets they already serve. Post-recession, LCCs have shown preference to competing with major carriers over other LCCs. The second study investigates the declining service levels at small airports compared to large-hub airports, which continue to benefit from higher levels of service and increased airline presence. Using a fixed-effects conditional logistic regression, this study looked at factors contributing to service loss in region-to-region markets serving small communities between 2007 and 2013. Results show that 1) markets affected by a merger are indeed at a higher risk of losing service; 2) markets that are operated by a fuel-intensive, small-aircraft fleet have a higher chance to be discontinued and 3) an increased number of competitors greatly reduces potential market service loss. The third and final study proposes a new methodology to calculate original delay and propagated delays using combined aviation operational datasets that provide detailed flight information and causal factors behind delays. In addition to calculating original and propagated delay for the month of July of 2018, this study differentiated between original delays that occur during the turnaround phase, taxiing phase and en-route and incorporates causal factor information to identify the true source behind propagated delay. Two fixed-effects linear regression models were introduced that predict Total Propagated Delay and the share of propagated delay given an airport's ability to absorb upstream delay during the turnaround phase. Results show that most delay propagation chains originate at large-hub airports and are mostly concentrated at airports within the same geographical area. However, delays originating at large-hub airports were found to be the quickest to recover (i.e. least number of downstream flight legs affected) and large-hub airports have a higher ability to absorb delay at the turnaround phase compared to smaller airports given the significantly higher schedule buffer time airlines plan at large-hub airports.
General Audience Abstract
The changing nature of the air service industry is dependent on several key factors, including but not limited to the major and low-cost airlines, the frequency of service at different sized-airports and the operational performance of the airports in the system. Each airport can be classified by size based on the annual number of enplanements. This dissertation looks at the relationship between airport size (e.g. small, medium, large), service continuity and operational performance. It consists of three studies, each written in journal format. Over the past two decades, the U.S. air transportation network witnessed several economic downturns forcing airlines to shift their operational strategies, cease service or merge with an airline counterpart. The first study analyzes routes served before and after the recession by exploring the presence of major and low-cost carriers in these markets to understand how several economic downturns have influenced the operating strategy of airlines in the US. While Low-cost carriers focused on expanding their network and offering service in an increased number of new routes, major carriers increased their presence in the markets in which they already serve. Furthermore, after the recession, low-cost carriers chose to increasingly compete with major carriers over their low-cost counterparts. The second study explored the factors that can potentially contribute to the loss of service in routes serving small communities. While airlines continue to compete on the most profitable routes, small airports recently suffered from reduced service levels and in some instance service discontinuity. Results show that 1) routes that were once served by two airlines that merged are at a higher risk of losing service; 2) routes that are operated by a fuel-intensive small aircraft fleet have a higher chance to be discontinued and 3) an increased presence of airlines competing in a route greatly reduces potential service loss. In addition to evaluating service continuity, the third and final study looks at flight delays across the US and dives into the effect of airport size on propagated delay. Delays on a flight can be caused by inefficiencies and capacity restrictions at airports and may also be the result of delay that happen earlier in the day and that propagates to multiple flights downstream that share the same resources. That is, a delay can affect multiple flights whenever these flights are all operated by the same aircraft equipment. Costing the air transportation network billions of dollars annually, the third study examines the original and propagated delays at US airports by collecting data from multiple sources to incorporate the original source and cause of delay. Results show that most delay originates at large-hub airports and are mostly concentrated at airports within the same geographical area. However, delays originating at large-hub airports were found to be the quickest to recover and large-hub airports have a higher ability to absorb delay at the turn compared to smaller airports as airlines allocate additional minutes of schedule padding at large-hub airports.
- Doctoral Dissertations