Flying High: How Big Data will Reduce Delays in Your Air Travel

There was a fascinating article this week in ReCode about efforts to squeeze more efficiency out of the world’s aviation networks using smarter algorithms to isolate the impact of weather events. From the article:

“Bad weather is the cause of 70 percent of all traffic delays within the U.S. National Airspace System, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), adding about $6.7 billion a year in passenger costs. An estimate from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee puts the annual cost of delayed flights at about $40 billion. That spending also adds up to lost time. In fact, in 2013 alone, the airline industry experienced more than 12 million minutes worth of weather-related delays.”

Air traffic controllers do their best with the data available, but will err on the side of caution on any judgement calls in the name of public safety. According to the article, up to 66% of those decisions to delay should be preventable with input from algorithms that use the very latest weather and flight data, and study rates of meteorological change as it applies to the specific flight situation.

Putting on my math hat, that’s $40 billion times 70 percent times 66 percent equals $18.5B in possible savings. That’s a lot of peanuts! That’s almost half the waste currently created by weather delays avoided with a single application of these next-generation technology.

This is the kind of thing envisioned by GOES-R team when they upgraded their real-time satellite weather data streams using Solace technology. Adding that real-time weather data to flight tracking information could dramatically reduce the impact of delays on both passengers and the airline industry.