Fleet upgauging and reducing flight frequency
Aircraft economies of scale do exist but are challenging to capitalize due to market-related, technical, and regulatory constraints. This study explores the temporal, economic, and ecologic impact of systematically upgauged fleets with the overall goal to assess the potential of frequency regulation. Upgauging refers to increasing aircraft size in terms of its seat capacity. Specifically, the tradeoffs between cash operating cost, fuel consumption, aircraft utilization, air traffic flow management delay, and passenger travel time are investigated within the EUROCONTROL area. Methodically, a fleet assignment model is applied that solves a linear optimization problem for each frequency-reduced route for a long-term timeframe of 20 years (2020–2040). If upgauging is limited to single-aisle aircraft, cash operating cost and fuel consumption savings are the highest with up to 5% on the frequency-reduced routes in 2040. This is accompanied by a decrease of total annual air traffic flow management delay of 17%. Upgauging the fleet into the twin-aisle segment yields a stronger reduction in total annual air traffic flow management delay (21%) but increases cash operating cost and fuel consumption (5 and 7%, respectively). The market entry of a single-aisle new midsize airplane could increase the economic and ecologic attractiveness of upgauging.