Synthesis Topics

Modeling Aviation Activity Allocation in Multi-Airport Regions trending idea Edited

This Synthesis study will document the current state of practice of modeling the distribution of future aviation activity among airports in a multi-airport region and identify needed future research to advance the state of practice. The state of practice of how this is done has advanced very little in the past two decades, although the advent of relatively new "big data" sources of information offers promising opportunities to advance the state of practice.

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

All forecasts of future aviation activity in multi-airport regions require projections to be made of how total regional activity will be distributed among the airports serving the region. This is most apparent in large metropolitan regions served by multiple commercial service airports, such as the Baltimore-Washington region or the San Francisco Bay Area. However, the issue of air passenger airport choice also arises with airport serving smaller communities at some distance from a major airport, where many air travelers choice to drive or use other surface transportation to take advantage of the better (or less expensive) air service at the larger airport, a phenomenon often referred to as "leakage."

Although past studies of aviation activity allocation in multi-airport regions have generally developed analytical models of air passenger airport choice, there is also a need for models of how regional levels of general aviation activity will be distributed among the general aviation airports in the region, as well as how regional air cargo activity will be distributed among airports serving a region. Air passenger airport choice is clearly influenced by differences in air service at the airports serving a region, so airline decisions of which airports to serve and which markets to serve from those airports becomes a major consideration. A previous ACRP project completed in 2013 (documented in ACRP Report 98) examined the factors that influence airline and passenger choice in multi-airport regions. However, that study did not examine how those factors are represented in air passenger airport choice models, the state of practice of such models, practical considerations in developing such models, or research needed to be able to develop more reliable and more useful models.

In recent years, new so-called "big data" sources, typically derived from smartphone tracking or Internet flight booking and search behavior, have become more readily available and allow analysts to study which airports air passengers from a given community make use of for their air trips. However, these data sources, while more extensive than data from air passenger surveys, do not provide the level of traveler-specific information that can be obtained from a survey. Thus one important research area is how best to combine the information from these disparate data sources in order to develop models that can be used to project how future air travelers or other users of the aviation system will choose between the airports that are available to them.

In 2008, an early ACRP Synthesis study (ACRP Synthesis 5) examined the state of practice of airport ground access model choice models at the time. These models commonly form one component of an airport choice model, since the relative accessibility of different airports is clearly an important consideration in airport choice. Moreover, aviation and regional planning agencies are often interested in how changes in the airport ground access system (such as improving rail access to an airport) is likely to influence air passengers' airport choice. This study is now over twelve years old and could usefully be updated to reflect more recent airport ground access mode choice modeling experience as part of a more comprehensive examination of air passenger airport choice.

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

The Synthesis project will provide a summary of the current state of practice of modeling aviation activity allocation in multi-airport regions, based on a review of relevant literature and published study reports. The project will also identify needed future research to advance the current state of practice.

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

The project will undertake a comprehensive literature review making use of such resources as the Transportation Research Integrated Database (TRID), the Elsevier Scopus database, and online library catalogs. In addition, an informal survey of industry experts involved in aviation demand allocation modeling will be undertaken to identify recent work or proprietary or consultant studies that may not appear in a traditional literature search.

The results of the literature review and industry survey will be documented in an annotated bibliography of relevant literature and summarized in the body of the Synthesis report. Based on the findings of the literature review and discussions with industry experts, the report will identify and discuss identify needed future research to advance the current state of practice.

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.

ACRP and Other Research:

Gosling, Geoffrey D., Airport Ground Access Mode Choice Models, ACRP Synthesis 5, Airport Cooperative Research Program, Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, 2008.

Mandel, Benedikt, "Choice Models and Contemporary Airport Forecasting." Chapter 3 in International Transport Forum, Airport Demand Forecasting for Long Term Planning, Roundtable Report 159, Paris, France, 2016.

Mandel, Julian, and Benedikt Mandel, "The Hammer & Dance Process Based on Door-to-Door Modeling," Chapter 7.10 in Nawal K. Taneja, Airlines in a Post-Pandemic World: Preparing for Constant Turbulence Ahead, Routledge, 2021.

Parrella, Barney C. (InterVISTAS Consulting, LLC), in association with Evaluation and Training Institute, and Kvistad Design, Understanding Airline and Passenger Choice in Multi-Airport Regions, ACRP Report 98, Airport Cooperative Research Program, Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, 2013.

A current ACRP research project 03-62 "A Toolkit for Establishing Airport Catchment Areas" has a related but different objective, namely to develop a toolkit that will help an airport define its catchment area. That project may identify relevant data sources and contribute to an understanding of air passenger airport choice but it is not scoped to address the different issue of modeling aviation demand allocation in multi-airport regions addressed by this Synthesis topic or to provide a summary of the relevant literature and state of practice for that broader issue.

Research Gaps:

There is a lack of a comprehensive summary of the existing literature and current state of practice to guide those developing or considering developing aviation activity allocation models. This is an essential first step before considering what additional research may be needed to advance the state of practice.

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Idea No. 781