Metaheuristics for efficient aircraft scheduling and re-routing at busy terminal control areas

Marcella Samà, Andrea D'Ariano*, Francesco Corman, Dario Pacciarelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Intelligent decision support systems for the real-time management of landing and take-off operations can be very effective in helping air traffic controllers to limit airport congestion at busy terminal control areas. The key optimization problem to be solved regards the assignment of airport resources to take-off and landing aircraft and the aircraft sequencing on them. The problem can be formulated as a mixed integer linear program. However, since this problem is strongly NP-hard, heuristic algorithms are typically adopted in practice to compute good quality solutions in a short computation time. This paper presents a number of algorithmic improvements implemented in the AGLIBRARY solver (a state-of-the-art optimization solver to deal with complex routing and scheduling problems) in order to improve the possibility of finding good quality solutions quickly. The proposed framework starts from a good initial solution for the aircraft scheduling problem with fixed routes (given the resources to be traversed by each aircraft), computed via a truncated branch-and-bound algorithm. A metaheuristic is then applied to improve the solution by re-routing some aircraft in the terminal control area. New metaheuristics, based on variable neighbourhood search, tabu search and hybrid schemes, are introduced. Computational experiments are performed on an Italian terminal control area under various types of disturbances, including multiple aircraft delays and a temporarily disrupted runway. The metaheuristics achieve solutions of remarkable quality, within a small computation time, compared with a commercial solver and with the previous versions of AGLIBRARY.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-511
JournalTransportation Research. Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Disjunctive programming
  • Disruption management
  • Hybrid algorithms
  • Landing and take-off operations
  • Optimal air traffic control
  • Tabu search
  • Variable neighbourhood search


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