Air New Zealand honored in operations research competition

May 24, 2000

Air New Zealand has been honored by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) for innovations in the complex art of crew scheduling, improvements that realize more than NZ$ 15.6 million (about US$7 million) a year to the air carrier. The project brings improved service to passengers and increased ability to meet air crews' assignment preferences. The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) conducted a competition for the Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences at its national convention in Salt Lake City earlier this month. The six finalists for the award, all of whom were recognized by the judges, were Air New Zealand, Fingerhut, the Federal Aviation Administration, IBM, Jeppesen Sanderson, and Ford Motor. The winner of the Edelman Award was Jeppesen Sanderson.

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) recognized Air New Zealand for a study entitled "Optimized Crew Scheduling at Air New Zealand." The authors are E. Rod Butchers, Stephen Miller, Amanda C. Scott, and Chris A. Wallace of Network Logistics, Air New Zealand, Ltd.; Paul R. Day, Andrew P. Goldie, and Jeff A. Meyer of Optimal Decision Technologies, Ltd.; and David M. Ryan of the Department of Engineering Science, University of Auckland.

The project addresses a significant issue faced by airlines. Commercial airlines are required to solve many resource scheduling problems to ensure that aircraft and crew are available for each scheduled flight. Since aircraft and crew are among the most expensive airline resources, their efficient utilization is an important consideration in airline operations. Because of the large cost savings available from more efficient use of crew, many airlines have developed optimization methods to solve their crew scheduling problems. The Air New Zealand project resulted in the development of eight state-of-the-art optimization-based systems to solve tour of duty planing and rostering process for Air New Zealand's national and international airlines. With the innovations, the number of staff required to solve these scheduling problems has gone down although New Zealand's aircraft fleet and route structure has increased significantly in size.

The Air New Zealand project's accomplishments include improved passenger service through better allocation of multi-lingual flight attendants to international flights; the production of high quality solutions in shorter time; accurate identification of days on which there are insufficient crews; insured compliance with required scheduling rules; greater ability to comply with crew assignment requests; and the elimination of the need to produce complex manual solutions.

Air New Zealand management has said that it is examining other areas of the company's business to which the operations research team can contribute.
29th Year of Competition

This is the 29th year that the prestigious $15,000 competition has been held. The award is jointly sponsored by INFORMS and CPMS, the Practice Section of INFORMS.

The INFORMS Edelman Award recognizes outstanding implemented work that has had a significant, positive impact on the performance of the client organization. The top finalist receives a $10,000 first prize.

The judges of the Edelman competition were Russ Labe; Joseph Discenza, Wagner & Associates; Howard Finkelberg, BBDO; H. Newton Garber, Garber Associates; Stephen C. Graves, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Yoshiro Ikura, Saitech; Peter C. Bell, University of Western Ontario; and Donald Smith, Lucent Technologies.

All the finalist papers will be published in the January 2001 issue of Interfaces: An International Journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) is an international scientific society with 12,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, the stock market, and telecommunications. The INFORMS website is at

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

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