The airport and airline systems research focuses on an issue of crucial importance to Portugal and many other countries around the world: deriving a coherent understanding of airports as systems. A specific research project, for example, aims to quantify the effects on airline and air transportation system performance and configuration of various proposed technologies and policies aimed at addressing airport congestion, including next-generation air traffic control systems, airport location and number, slot allocations, and congestion pricing.

Project: Implications of Congestion for the Configuration of Airport Networks and Airline Networks (AirNets) (November 2007 – December 2010)

Description: Most ongoing work on the implications of congestion for the configuration of airport networks and airline networks relies on qualitative approaches that posit sets of assumptions about future traffic conditions and then discuss the implications of these assumptions for the various air transportation stakeholders. By contrast, the objectives of the proposed project will be pursued through quantitative analyses that will utilize a new network model of two regional airport systems – one E.U.-wide and the other U.S.-wide – that combine mathematical optimization with a stochastic and dynamic queuing theory approach. Using these network models, the impacts of distribution of traffic among alternative types of airports and the incidence of delays on airlines and on passengers will be explored.

Objectives: The project is organized around the following specific objectives:

  • Developing airport and airline network models incorporating access costs (landing fees, passenger taxes, and environmental charges) and delay costs, as well as constraints related to new air transportation policies and technologies
  • Developing a stochastic and dynamic queuing model to compute detailed delay profiles and delay costs
  • Applying the models to the E.U. and U.S. air transportation systems


AIRNETS has developed several state-of-the-art models for the study of major policy questions concerning the impacts of infrastructure limitations on air transport systems.  The issues addressed are:

  • Allocation of investments and the optimal expansion paths for national or international networks of airports;
  • Propagation of delays across networks of the busiest airports in the US and in Europe, along with the impacts of alternative congestion mitigation strategies;
  • Optimal design of airline networks taking expected airport delays into account; and
  • Implications of airport slot control adjustments for airline frequency competition, airport competition, and airline profitability

Industry Involvement: collaboration with several key aviation entities has begun or is under discussion, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), EUROCONTROL — The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, the European Center for Aviation Development (ECAD), and Portuguese airlines TAP and SATA. In Germany, researchers are applying the team’s work to study national airport expansion priorities.

PT Faculty: Rosário Macário (IST), António Antunes (Coimbra)

MIT Faculty: Cynthia Barnhart, Amedeo Odoni

Student Researchers on this Project: Alda Mendes (Porto), João Pita (Coimbra)


pdf Briefing on AirNets Project by Amedeo Odoni

pdf Emerging Energy and Tech. Patterns in Air Transportation Systems and the Kondratieff’s Waves Theory , poster, Carlos Marques, MIT Portugal Program’s 1st Annual Conference, July 7, 2009.

pdf Transportation Systems Research 2008 AirNets