Research Projects

Guidebook on Sources of Data for Air Passenger Travel

Develop a guidebook that would assist airports and other aviation analysts become familiar with the different sources of data that are available to support analyses and forecasts of air passenger travel. Provide guidance on which types of data are appropriate for use in a given study, understand the strengths and limitations of the different potential data sources, and estimate the likely costs involved in their use.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Data on the number and characteristics of air passenger trips are fundamental to a range of different types of analyses undertaken by airports and other agencies at the local, regional, state, and national level, as well as their consultants and aviation researchers. These analyses include travel demand forecasts, air passenger leakage studies, and air market development studies.

There is a wide range of sources of such data, including data reported by airlines to the U.S. Department of Transportation, data derived from airline bookings, and data obtained from surveys of air passengers, households, or (less commonly) businesses. Some of these data are publicly available, while other data can only be obtained from commercial data providers. These different data sources have their advantages and disadvantages, including different costs to acquire and use, and differences in what information is included. There are also limitations on what is included in a given data source or how the data are collected that need to be understood in order to properly interpret the data in using them for a given analysis.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The proposed research would develop a guidebook that would assist airports and other aviation analysts become familiar with the different sources of data that are available to support analyses and forecasts of air passenger travel, decide which types of data are appropriate for use in a given study, understand the strengths and limitations of the different potential data sources, and estimate the likely costs involved in using data from a given source.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The proposed approach to the research would involve the following activities, in addition to the preparation of the guidebook based on the research findings:

• Identify and document available data sources, drawing on industry knowledge, a review of relevant literature and previous studies, and a search of the Internet.

• Undertake telephone or Internet interviews with selected industry experts with extensive experience in performing air passenger travel studies and working with the different data sources, to identify the strengths and limitations of the different data sources and factors that need to be taken into account in using the various sources.

• Assemble representative datasets from different public and commercial data sources and use these datasets to undertaken a range of different case study analyses to document the issues involved in using the various data sources and determine the data costs and staff time required to perform the case study analyses.

• Based on the findings of the case study analyses, develop guidance on how to estimate the costs and effort involved in utilizing available data sources to undertake different types of air passenger travel studies.

• Develop recommendations for ways that ACRP can update the guidance on the availability and use of different data sources as new data sources are developed and existing data sources evolve.

• Based on the findings of the research, identify data gaps and needed future research to enhance the usability of the different data sources, address limitations of the existing data, and fill data gaps.

Although the primary focus of the proposed research is intended to address data on air passenger travel between origin and destination airports, as well as air passenger characteristics and the distribution of ground trip origins and destinations, the discussion of available data sources and identification of future research needs could address air passenger and airport employee ground transportation to and from airports and resulting vehicle trips.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

It is anticipated that the proposed research could be conducted for $450,000, including a provision of $80,000 for the cost of acquiring representative data from commercial sources for use in the case study analyses and $10,000 for travel to attend Project Panel meetings and other direct costs.

The cost estimate is based on assigning person-months of effort to each of the above tasks and applying an average cost of $30,000 per person-month based on the budgeted cost for recent ACRP projects. It is estimated that the above tasks and preparation of project deliverables could be completed for 12 person-months of professional time.

It is envisaged that the proposed research could be conducted over a period of approximately 15 months, including allowances for project panel review of draft intermediate and final deliverables.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

The research undertaken for ACRP Research Report 194 Using Disaggregated Socioeconomic Data in Air Passenger Demand Studies included a review of a range of potential sources of data on air passenger characteristics and their influence on air travel demand. This research included an extensive review of air passenger activity forecasts at a wide range of U.S. and overseas airports, including the data used in those studies. ACRP Project 01-43 is currently updating and expanding ACRP Report 26 Guidebook for Conducting Airport User Surveys to include a review of recent air passenger surveys. A number of earlier ACRP studies have examined different air travel forecasting approaches, including ACRP Synthesis 2 Airport Aviation Activity Forecasting, ACRP Report 76 Addressing Uncertainty about Future Airport Activity Levels in Airport Decision Making, and ACRP Report 98 Understanding Airline and Passenger Choice in Multi-Airport Regions. Although these studies focused on analysis techniques rather than the underlying data sources, they did necessarily address data considerations.

A workshop on Aviation Data Needs and Opportunities for Economic Analysis and Forecasting was held at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in 2020 that included a number of presentations that specifically addressed air passenger data issues and limitations.

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Idea No. 655