What are the differences between American major mainline passenger airline scheduling policies?

Presumably, each airline runs a model or optimization problem for determining

  • where (markets/airports),
  • when (timing of the flights throughout the day), and
  • how many seats (plane capacity).

Are there any specific examples of different scheduling policies, methods, or algorithms among airlines - within the context of each airline doing the best it can to match its schedule to market demand, according to its business plan and strategy?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I suspect they're a closely guarded secret beyond the vague principles you outlined. $\endgroup$
    – Flexo
    Jan 17, 2015 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ Although this question is on-topic, i doubt it will ever be answered satisfactorily. $\endgroup$
    – Steve V.
    Jan 17, 2015 at 12:34
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Although marginally on-topic, the focus of this question is the use of business intelligence (or data mining) algorithms for flight scheduling. Note that even if the model is similar, different inputs (base location, loyal customer behavior, cost breakdown) would result in different output. Unfortunately, a vague understanding would require reading at least several chapters of a relevant book. Voted to close. $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Jan 17, 2015 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding your second last paragraph, it is called codeshare. There has already been a question for that. $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Jan 17, 2015 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


There are many academic papers available for general airline scheduling topics. Airline flight schedule planning is a huge topic, existing within the more general field of Operations Research. The models and algorithms used are not simple by any means, and thus there could exist many kinds of differences between the methods used by each of the different airlines.

Considering such models are part of how airlines gain a competitive advantage, specific airline methods, at least for now, are proprietary information. Perhaps this will not always be the case, but it would take a change in the way the airline industry operates for this type of information to be publicly available.

That being said, the data about the output of those models are freely available, collected by the U.S. Government (see the Bureau of Transportation Statistics).

Theoretically, one could mine the available data to reverse-engineer some differences, but these will be theories at best.


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