Research Projects

Research into data sources for Passenger Load Factors

Passenger load factors are determined and published by the airlines as the RPK's divided by the ASK's, but what goes into the denominator and numerator and how could they be impacted.

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

Currently the airlines calculate and publish load factors and this is done by dividing the revenue passenger kilometers/miles (RPK) by the available passenger kilometers/miles (ASK). This calculation may be influenced by known and unknown factors. If these factors are great enough they may adversely influence the accuracy of forecasts.
This key ratio is used in both directions at different times, both to convert aircraft movements into passengers and passengers into aircraft movements.
The author can think of a few factors, currently, that might impact this ratio, though others might appear as the research unfolds.
First is the question of ASK's which may or may not include non-passenger airline operations. This includes ferry and repositioning flights, as well as maintenance and training flights. These additional flights are of interest to ANSPs in the determination of air traffic volumes, but do not impact terminal operations. The research should identify how airlines include such operations in their reported statistics.
Second is the question of non-reimbursable cancelled flights. In this case the airline derives revenue, but does not provide the service, and also introduces the ability to sell the same seat twice (or more). As airline competition grows and the advent of more LCC and ULCC airlines the restrictions of seat sales becomes more stringent. A common restriction is that cancellations are not allowed and will not be refunded. The research should determine how big this factor is.
Another factor might be awards programs, and whether or not these flights are accumulated as RPKs.

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

The objective is to give the airports and ANSPs additional insight into the load factor and how it might produce different answers under different circumstances. Armed with this knowledge, practitioners would be able to complete additional boundary or sensitivity calculations that would aid decision makers.

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

This part is not fully developed and could be expanded.
At the moment the first course of research would be through interviews with airline personnel. Whether or not this required information is proprietary is a key question.

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

The author does not yet have an good estimate for this undertaking, but thoughts are in the order of $250K.
There is no backup for this estimate at this time.

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.

At the moment load factors are taken at face value, but are they accurate enough for the uses to which they are being put?

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Idea No. 247