Optimal Airline Ticket Purchasing Using Automated User-Guided Feature Selection / 150
William Groves, Maria Gini

Airline ticket purchase timing is a strategic problem that requires both historical data and domain knowledge to solve consistently.  Even with some historical information (often a feature of modern travel reservation web sites), it is difficult for consumers to make true cost-minimizing decisions.  To address this problem, we introduce an automated agent which is able to optimize purchase timing on behalf of customers and provide performance estimates of its computed action policy based on past performance.  We apply machine learning to recent ticket price quotes from many competing airlines for the target flight route.  Our novelty lies in extending this using a systematic feature extraction technique incorporating elementary user-provided domain knowledge that greatly enhances the performance of machine learning algorithms.  Using this technique, our agent achieves much closer to the optimal purchase policy than other proposed decision theoretic approaches for this domain.