Latent temporal preferences: An application to airline travel

An essential element of demand modeling in the airline industry is the representation of time of day demand - the demand for a given itinerary as a function of its departure or arrival times. It is an important datum that drives successful scheduling and fleet decisions. There are two key components to this problem: the distribution of the time of day demand and how preferred travel time influences itinerary choice. This paper focuses on estimating the time of day distribution. Our objective is to estimate it in a manner that is not confounded with air travel supply; is a function of the characteristics of the traveler, the trip, and the market; and accounts for potential measurement errors in self-reported travel time preferences. We employ a stated preference dataset collected by intercepting people who were booking continental US trips via an internet booking service. Respondents reported preferred travel times as well as choices from a hypothetical set of itineraries. We parameterize the time of day distribution as a mixture of normal distributions (due to the strong peaking nature of travel time preferences) and allow the mixing function to vary by individual characteristics and trip attributes. We estimate the time of day distribution and the itinerary choice model jointly in a manner that accounts for measurement error in the self-reported travel time preferences. We find that the mixture of normal distributions fits the time of day distribution well and is behaviorally intuitive. The strongest covariates of travel time preferences are party size and time zone change. The methodology employed to treat self-reported travel time preferences as potentially having error contributes to the broader transportation time of day demand literature, which either assumes that the desired travel times are known with certainty or that they are unknown. We find that the error in self-reported travel time preferences is statistically significant and impacts the inferred time of day demand distribution.


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  • Accession Number: 01352585
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 20 2011 8:11AM