Forecasting (aggregate) demand for US commercial air travel
We analyze whether it is better to forecast air travel demand using aggregate data at (say) a national level, or to aggregate the forecasts derived for individual airports using airport-specific data. We compare the US Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) practice of predicting the total number of passengers using macroeconomic variables with an equivalently specified AIM (aggregating individual markets) approach. The AIM approach outperforms the aggregate forecasting approach in terms of its out-of-sample air travel demand predictions for different forecast horizons. Variants of AIM, where we restrict the coefficient estimates of some explanatory variables to be the same across individual airports, generally dominate both the aggregate and AIM approaches. The superior out-of-sample performances of these so-called quasi-AIM approaches depend on the trade-off between heterogeneity and estimation uncertainty. We argue that the quasi-AIM approaches exploit the heterogeneity across individual airports efficiently, without suffering from as much estimation uncertainty as the AIM approach.
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