United Airlines: More Out-and-Back Flying?
The case looks at United Airlines when it is facing a decision on whether to shift its aircraft routing to more "out-and-back" routing in order to try to improve its on time performance. As one of the world's largest airlines, United had a very large fleet and hub-and-spoke network that provided passengers with a wide range of destination choices, but as with any complex system unless everything ran perfectly all the time, it inevitably faced cascading delays and missed passenger connection problems. While out-and-back routing tended to isolate operational issues, more traditional linear routings tended to offer high equipment utilization. The case offers students an opportunity to examine the effects of variability on different routing strategies.