Air Travel Delays: Bad, Getting Worse, so reads the Washington Post today. And we’ve all seen the recent coverage of stranded Northwest airlines passengers.

Everyone has a story to tell. You get to the airport two hours in advance of your flight, check in, make your way through the security checkpoint, arrive at your gate with a bottled water, snack and magazine in hand and a few minutes to spare only to see the sign: “Flight Delayed”, or even worse, “Flight Cancelled.”

And then there is the arrival to your destination. Your flight took off late, but the pilot reassures you during the flight that he/she as made up for lost time and that the flight will actually be landing in advance of the scheduled arrival time. Sure, you arrive early, but when you get there all of the gates are occupied. You sit on the tarmac, sometimes for minutes, which actually feel like hours, and in some cases, they really are hours.

One frustrated JetBlue traveler videotaped their 14 hour ordeal and posted the video on YouTube for the entire world to experience.

Who do you blame? As reported in the Washington Post, the FAA blames congestion that has resulted from growing demand. They also point fingers at mother nature. Others single out the FAA saying that they have been tardy in developing and implementing state-of-the art satellite navigation systems. Airlines are blasted for cutting too many jobs and for worker strikes. Others see heightened security precautions as the problem.

The DOT maintains and reports information on flight delays by airport by airline by month for non-stop flights. The Airline On-Time Performance database includes flight information for 19 carriers – i.e., those carriers that have at least 1% of total domestic passenger revenue. It also provideds information on delay by source of cause: weather, security, airline, NAS and runway taxying. Many of the statistics you see reported on the news on airline delay come from this database.

The map below shows average arrival delay by airport for the 1st Quarter, 2007.


According to the data that was used to generate this map, the airports with the worst average arrival delay during the first three months of this year were:

Willard Airport, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Jacksonhole, Wyoming

Chicago-Rockford International

Gallatin Field, Bozeman, Montana

Jack NcNamara Field, Crescent City, California

In fact, a good handful of the airports that ranked high in delay (top 20 or so) were located in Illinois and Colorado. Ohare, a major international aviation hub, ranked 12th.

So, going back to the question of who to blame. A cursory review of the origins of delay in the database reveals that, at least for the 1st quarter, 2007, inclement weather and the airlines were the source of the problem for many of the regional airports at the top of the list. Taxi-time was the primary source of the problem for major airports.


2 Responses to Flight Delay: Who's to Blame?

  1. hackwolf says:

    This map is not particularly illuminating. More informative would be a map that displayed delays relative to airport traffic volume. As it is, it gives the impression that a few mountain airports are major centers of delay. While they might have very poor on-time records during the winter, the traffic volume is very low, and people in the mountains expect delays and weather problems in snowy winters like we had during Q1 2007. One day of delay problems at ORD likely inconveniences more people and has more ripple effects throughout the system than an entire year of delays at EGE.

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