Optimal flight gate assignment is a highly relevant optimization problem from airport management. Among others, an important goal is the minimization of the total transit time of the passengers. The corresponding objective function is quadratic in the binary decision variables encoding the flight-to-gate assignment. Hence, it is a quadratic assignment problem being hard to solve in general. In this work, we investigate the solvability of this problem with a D-Wave quantum annealer. These machines are optimizers for quadratic unconstrained optimization problems (QUBO). Therefore the flight gate assignment problem seems to be well suited for these machines. We use real-world data from a mid-sized German airport as well as simulation-based data to extract typical instances small enough to be amenable to the D-Wave machine. In order to mitigate precision problems, we employ bin packing on the passenger numbers to reduce the precision requirements of the extracted instances. We find that, for the instances we investigated, the bin packing has little effect on the solution quality. Hence, we were able to solve small problem instances extracted from real data with the D-Wave 2000Q quantum annealer.
Flight Gate Assignment with a Quantum Annealer