The airline industry uses linear programming to optimize profits and minimize expenses in their business.  Initially, airlines charged the same price for any seat on the aircraft.  In order to make money, they decided to charge different fares for different seats and promoted different prices depending on how early you bought your ticket.  This required some linear programming.  Airlines needed to consider how many people would be willing to pay a higher price for a ticket if they were able to book their flight at the last minute and have substantial flexibility in their schedule and flight times.  The airline also needed to know how many people would only purchase a low price ticket, without an in-flight meal.  Through linear programming, airlines were able to find the optimal breakdown of how many tickets to sell at which price, including various prices in between.

Image reproduced with permission of Goleta Air & Space Museum

Airlines also need to consider plane routes, pilot schedules, direct and in-direct flights, and layovers.  There are certain standards that require pilots to sleep for so many hours and to have so many days rest before flying.  Airlines want to maximize the amount of time that their pilots are in the air, as well.  Pilots have certain specializations, as not all pilots are able to fly the same planes, so this also becomes a factor.  The most controllable factor an airline has is its pilot’s salary, so it is important that airlines use their optimization teams to keep this expense as low as possible.  Because all of these constraints must be considered when making economic decisions about the airline, linear programming becomes a crucial job.