A crew pairing is a sequence of flights, connections and rests that start and end at a crew base and is assigned to a single crew. The crew pairing problem consists of determining a minimum cost set of feasible crew pairings such that each flight is covered exactly once and side constraints are satisfied. Traditionally, this problem has been solved in the industry by a heuristic three-phase approach that solves sequentially a daily, a weekly, and a monthly problem. This approach prohibits or strongly penalizes the repetition of the same flight number in a pairing. In this paper, we highlight two weaknesses of the three-phase approach and propose alternative solution approaches that exploit flight number repetitions in pairings. First, when the flight schedule is irregular, we show that better quality solutions can be obtained in less computational times if the first two phases are skipped and the monthly problem is solved directly using a rolling horizon approach based on column generation. Second, for completely regular flight schedules, we show that better quality solutions can be derived by skipping the daily problem phase and solving the weekly problem directly.
Published November 2009 , 22 pages