Many challenging scheduling, planning, and resource allocation problems come with real-world input data and hard problem constraints, and reduce to optimizing a cost function over a combinatorially defined feasible set, such as colorings of a graph. Toward tackling such problems with quantum computers using quantum approximate optimization algorithms, we present novel efficient quantum alternating operator ansatz (QAOA) constructions for optimization problems over proper colorings of chordal graphs. As our primary application, we consider the flight-gate assignment problem, where flights are assigned to airport gates as to minimize the total transit time of all passengers, and feasible assignments correspond to proper graph colorings of a conflict graph derived instancewise from the input data. We leverage ideas from classical algorithms and graph theory to show our constructions have the desirable properties of restricting quantum state evolution to the feasible subspace, and satisfying a particular reachability condition for most problem parameter regimes. Using classical preprocessing we show that we can always find and construct a suitable initial quantum (superposition) state efficiently. We show our constructions in detail, including explicit decompositions to a universal set of basic quantum gates, which we use to bound the required resource scaling as low-degree polynomials of the input parameters. In particular, we derive novel QAOA mixing operators and show that their implementation cost is commensurate with that of the QAOA phase operator for flight-gate assignment. A number of quantum circuit diagrams are included such that our constructions may be used as a template toward development and implementation of quantum gate-model approaches for a wider variety of potentially impactful real-world applications.
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