UK experts have started work on a £2.8m project to handle the country’s airport congestion, without depending completely on new airport building and expansion.

The OR-MASTER Programme Grant (Mathematical Models and Algorithms for Allocating Scarce Airport Resources) is being led by a team at Lancaster University Management School along with Computing, Science and Mathematics researchers at the University of Stirling.

The research is the result of growing concerns regarding airport capacity, rising demand and the effect of congestion on both the travels and the air transport industry. It is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

"Therefore, there is room to improve airport capacity utilisation which will benefit airlines, airports and the travelling public."

The research is aimed at finding effective ways to schedule flights, developing and testing new models and solution algorithms that consider all the factors involved in the allocation of flight ‘slots’.

The project will continue for the next six years and see an involvement of academia, the air transport industry and policy makers.

Project lead, Professor Konstantinos Zografos at Lancaster University Management School, said: "Existing approaches to airport slot allocation do not consider all the real-world complexity involved. Therefore, there is room to improve airport capacity utilisation which will benefit airlines, airports and the travelling public.

"It will support policy makers and air transport decision makers here and overseas in getting to grips with airport congestion and in optimally allocating scarce airport resources. The air transport industry generally will benefit from acquiring a better understanding of the trade-off between capacity utilisation, and passenger and airline schedule delays."

Professor Kevin Glazebrook from Lancaster University Management School said: "There is an international research effort to find solutions to a problem that’s high on the agenda for air transport decision and policy makers globally. With its reputation in Operational Research, the UK should be leading the way in meeting this challenge, and the new funding will help us do that."