The Impact of Airport Size on Service Continuity and Operational Performance

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Virginia Tech

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.

Flight Delay Propagation, Airport size, Airline Market Share, Competition Structures, Air Service Loss