Public Release: 

Continental Airlines wins INFORMS best practices award

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

LINTHICUM, MD, May 23, 2002 - The Continental Airlines technology that speeded recovery from the terrorist attack of September 11 resulted in the company's selection as winner of the Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure this week.

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) presented the award on Tuesday for a project entitled "A New Era for Crew Recovery at Continental Airlines."

"One of the strengths of a vital company is its ability to prepare for the unexpected," said Donald R. Smith of Monmouth University, chair of the award committee. "Continental's use of operations research techniques in crisis management helped it recover from terrorist attack and earn the commendation of our judges. This is an example of OR responding in real time to dramatic changes in operating conditions."

The winning team includes Continental Airlines' Anna C. White and Janet Wejman; and the airline's partner in the project, Austin-based CALEB Technologies Corp., whose team members are Gang Yu (also of the University of Texas at Austin), Michael Arguello, Mark Gao Song, and Sandra M. McCowan.

Airlines face schedule disruptions daily due to unexpected events including inclement weather, air traffic control, mechanical problems, and crew unavailability. These disruptions affect the flight schedule and lead to delays and cancellations. As a result, flight crews may not be in position to service their remaining scheduled flights. Airlines must be able to quickly reassign crews to cover open flights and return crews to their original schedules in the most cost-effective manner, while honoring all government regulations, contractual obligations, and business rules. The CrewSolverTM decision support system, developed by CALEB Technologies Corp. for Continental Airlines, uses operations research to generate globally optimal, or near optimal, crew recovery solutions while satisfying multiple complex constraints.

Since implementation, the system has dealt successfully with two Nor'easter snowstorms, the June 2001 Houston flood, and most dramatically, the September 11th terrorist attack. Continental recovered from each event in good time and generated overall benefits worth tens of millions of dollars.

The six finalists for the award, all of whom are recognized by the prize committee, also included Mars, Inc., the food giant; PSA Peugeot Citroën, the French auto maker; Rhenania, a German catalog house; Schindler Elevator Corporation; and the agribusiness company Syngenta Seeds.

Additional information about the finalists is available online at http://www.informs.org/Press/Montreal02b.htm The competition was held at an INFORMS conference, "Analyzing and Enhancing the Extended Enterprise," which took place at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure from May 19 through today.

INFORMS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This is the 31st year that the prestigious $15,000 competition has been held. The award is jointly sponsored by INFORMS and CPMS, the Practice Section of INFORMS. The INFORMS Edelman Award recognizes outstanding implemented work that has had a significant, positive impact on the performance of the client organization.

The judges of the Edelman competition were Dr. Smith; Peter C. Bell, Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario; Joseph Discenza, SmartCrane; H. Newton Garber, Garber Associates; Stephen C. Graves, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Terry P. Harrison, Pennsylvania State University; Russell P. Labe, Merrill Lynch U.S. Private Client Group; Tom Spencer, New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Steve Strauss, AT&T.

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The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) is an international scientific society with over 10,000 members dedicated to applying scientific methods to aid decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, the stock market, and telecommunications. 2002 is the 50th anniversary of organized operations research in the United States. 1952 was the year that the journal Operations Research and the Operations Research Society of America, one of the founding societies of INFORMS, were born. The INFORMS website is at http://www.informs.org.

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