Forecasting Airport Transfer Passenger Flow Using Real-Time Data and Machine Learning | Yael Grushka-Cockayne, Harvard Business School


Friday, March 29, 2019, 1:30pm to 2:30pm


Harvard University, Maxwell Dworkin G115, 33 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

This talk will begin promptly at 1:30pm. 

Title: Forecasting Airport Transfer Passenger Flow Using Real-Time Data and Machine Learning

Abstract:  In collaboration with Heathrow airport, we develop a predictive system that generates quantile forecasts of transfer passengers’ connection times. Sampling from the distribution of individual passengers’ connection times, the system also produces quantile forecasts for the number of passengers arriving at the immigration and security areas. Airports and airlines have been challenged to improve decision-making by producing accurate forecasts in real time. Our work is the first to apply machine learning for predicting real-time quantile forecasts in the airport. We focus on passengers’ connecting journeys, which have only been studied by few researchers. Better forecasts of these journeys can help optimize passenger experience and improve airport resource deployment. The predictive model developed is based on a regression tree combined with copula-based simulations. We generalize the tree method to predict complete distributions, moving beyond point forecasts. To derive insights from the tree, we introduce the concept of a stable tree that can be summarized by its key variables’ splits. We identify seven key factors that impact passengers’ connection times, dividing passengers into 16 passenger segments. We find that adding correlations among the connection times of passengers arriving on the same flight can improve the forecasts of arrivals at the immigration and security areas. When com- pared to several benchmarks, our model is shown to be more accurate in both point forecasting and quantile forecasting. Our predictive system can produce accurate forecasts, frequently, and in real- time. With these forecasts, an airport’s operating team can make data-driven decisions, identify late connecting passengers and assist them to make their connections. The airport can also update its resourcing plans based on the prediction of passenger arrivals. Our approach can be generalized to other domains, such as rail or hospital passenger flow.



Bio: Associate Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne's research and teaching activities focus on data science, forecasting, project management, and behavioral decision-making. Her research is published in numerous academic and professional journals, and she is a regular speaker at international conferences in the areas of decision analysis, analytics, project management and management science. She is also an award-winning teacher, winning the Darden Morton Leadership Faculty Award in 2011, the University of Virginia's Mead-Colley Award in 2012, the Darden Outstanding Faculty Award in 2013, and the Faculty Diversity Award in 2013 and 2018. In 2015 Yael won the University of Virginia All University Teaching award and has been voted MBA faculty marshal in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In 2014, Yael was named one of "21 Thought-Leader Professors" in Data Science.

**This event is free and open to the public; no registration required.**

See also: Seminar