The art of crew scheduling

Air New Zealand Masters the Art of Crew Scheduling

A white Air New Zealand 747 plane with a blue tail taking off from the runway in sunshine, with mountains in the background.

The Problem

Air New Zealand Limited, an international and domestic airline group that provides air passenger and cargo transport services, needed to improve the way it scheduled tours of duty and rosters. The challenge consisted of two problems: a tours-of-duty planning problem to generate minimum-cost tours of duty (sequences of duty periods and rest periods) to cover all scheduled flights, and a rostering problem to assign tours of duty to individual crew members. Solving these problems would require operations research expertise in complex scheduling and routing.

The OR Solution

Air New Zealand staff and consultants, in collaboration with the University of Auckland, developed eight optimisation-based computer systems to solve all aspects of the tours-of-duty planning and rostering processes for the airline's national and international operations.

The Value

These systems had saved over 15 million NZ dollars per year while providing crew rosters that better respect crew members' preferences.