The Technology of Air Transport

In May’s issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows documents DayJet, a new on-demand short-haul regional airline for travelers. Their sweetspot is relatively short notice trips that by car would be 3-5 hours. Fallows describes how DayJet is essentially a technology company, although it has less to do with aerospace breakthrough than with their Russian mathematicians who have created one of the world’s most complex Traveling Salesman models:

“In the few seconds it takes DayJet to price your trip, a system called RTR (for “real-time routing”) is figuring out how your request will affect the placement of planes, pilots, and passengers for all other flights that day, and exactly how much the company must charge to make a profit on your flight. The mechanics of making all of this work are what have made the Russians famous within the company—along with a vast computing system called ASTRO, which runs round the clock, constantly looking for more efficient­ ways to combine planes, pilots, and the time windows requested by passengers.”