Conceptualization of a Game Theoretic Approach to Air Marshal Scheduling Conference Paper uri icon


  • With 28,000 commercial airline flights flying in the sky daily in the Unites States of America, deploying a limited set of federal air marshals to maximize the chance of thwarting a potential terrorist attack on a flight is a challenging problem. The aim of this paper is to conceptualize an air marshal scheduling problem under the assumption that flights have been classified into several security risk classes. The problem is formulated as an imperfect information game between the Defender (Transportation Security Administration TSA) and the Attacker (Terrorist), and is set up as a bi-level optimization model. The upper level involves the TSA and focuses on determining how to deploy air marshals on flights from different risk classes such that the expected terrorist threat exposure is minimized. The lower level involves the terrorist and decides which risk class to attack with two objectives: maximizing the TSAs expected exposure and minimizing the terrorists probability of apprehension. In this imperfect information game, we assume that the terrorist can only obtain information about the proportion of flights covered in each risk class. We also assume that the terrorist is capable of attacking only one flight. Two research tasks (flight risk classification and solution methodology development) are conceptualized. A numerical example is presented to illustrate the basic concept. Finally, a summary is provided along with some future research possibilities.

name of conference

  • Security and Environmental Sustainability of Multimodal Transport

author list (cited authors)

  • Nie, X., Batta, R., & Lin, L.

editor list (cited editors)

  • Bell, M., Hosseinloo, S. H., & Kanturska, U.

publication date

  • January 2010