The Cost of ATC Delays

September 18, 2017 | U.S. DOT; A4A Analysis

“Remember that time is money.” 
- Ben Franklin, Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748

From an economics perspective, the airline business is all about speed and mobility. No other transport mode can get you from point A to point B any faster or safer than aviation. The industry has evolved into one of our nation’s great economic engines. On an average day, U.S. airlines operate approximately 27,000 flights from over 800 airports in nearly 80 countries, reliably moving over 2.2 million passengers and over 50,000 tons of cargo. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), commercial aviation accounts for 5 cents out of every dollar in the U.S. economy and generates over 10 million U.S. jobs.


Ben Franklin’s proverb continues to endure over 300 years later and remains highly relevant to our industry. The value that commercial aviation creates for our nation’s economy rests on the ability to save time for customers in a safe and affordable manner. Today this value proposition is at risk due to an air traffic control (ATC) system that is both inefficient and costly, not only to the airlines themselves but all of us who rely on them. According to statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2016, our ATC system caused 49 percent of nationwide flight delays that resulted in 23.3 million delay minutes (39 percent of total flight delay minutes).

In addition to direct costs incurred by the commercial aviators themselves, ATC delays drive opportunity costs to the flying public in the form of lost wages, lost productivity and/or foregone pursuit of leisure activity. Using DOT delay data, DOT airline industry statistics, and the DOT’s recommended guidance on the value of passenger time, we conservatively estimated the cost of ATC delays to passengers to be $1.8 billion.

Operational and Financial Impact of NAS-Related Delays On U.S. Passenger Carriers and their Customers

    A B   C D = C/A   E = C * Rate1   F G = A*D*F H = G * Rate2
CY 2016   # of Delayed Arrivals  % of Total Arrival Delays   NAS-Related Avg Duration   Direct Cost to   Avg Pax/ Total Pax Passenger Delay
    due to the NAS caused by the NAS   Arrival Delay Minutes NAS Delay (mins)   Airlines   Arrival Delay Minutes Cost Estimate
  TOTAL 472,538 49.0%   23,305,051 49   $1,457.7m   101 2,358,523,967 $1,804.6m
                         
California CA 84,532 56.3%   4,212,526 50   $263.5m   113 477,277,174 $364.9m
Florida FL 39,628 46.9%   1,957,334 49   $122.4m   127 249,430,026 $190.6m
Texas TX 45,841 47.1%   2,277,853 50   $142.5m   98 223,861,121 $171.1m
Illinois IL 35,335 59.9%   2,062,251 58   $129.0m   94 193,670,381 $148.6m
New York NY 31,694 56.8%   1,945,268 61   $121.7m   91 176,174,273 $135.7m
Georgia GA 23,540 45.3%   1,057,056 45   $66.1m   114 120,148,416 $92.4m
New Jersey NJ 18,564 67.9%   1,249,481 67   $78.2m   95 118,283,523 $91.0m
Colorado CO 19,170 49.8%   887,518 46   $55.5m   109 97,001,233 $74.2m
Nevada NV 13,876 47.9%   679,129 49   $42.5m   128 86,942,086 $66.6m
Massachusetts MA 13,113 51.8%   704,168 54   $44.0m   110 77,284,076 $59.4m
Arizona AZ 14,417 48.8%   550,791 38   $34.5m   111 61,170,140 $46.9m
Washington WA 12,760 54.5%   476,162 37   $29.8m   109 51,805,947 $39.8m
Minnesota MN 9,894 48.7%   415,159 42   $26.0m   97 40,081,494 $30.9m
Washington, DC DC 9,434 48.5%   483,039 51   $30.2m   82 39,503,818 $30.4m
N. Carolina NC 11,111 45.1%   462,565 42   $28.9m   84 38,910,203 $29.8m
Pennsylvania PA 9,084 48.5%   455,993 50   $28.5m   80 36,609,031 $28.0m
Michigan MI 9,126 43.1%   424,108 46   $26.5m   86 36,638,659 $28.0m
Maryland MD 6,148 43.1%   298,094 48   $18.6m   118 35,098,369 $27.0m
Missouri MO 6,291 36.8%   248,265 39   $15.5m   100 24,777,641 $19.0m
Ohio OH 5,466 39.1%   253,721 46   $15.9m   78 19,752,313 $15.2m
Louisiana LA 4,100 37.0%   174,125 42   $10.9m   103 17,849,212 $13.8m
Utah UT 5,294 38.5%   187,588 35   $11.7m   95 17,828,779 $13.7m
Tennessee TN 4,792 36.0%   199,304 42   $12.5m   89 17,736,652 $13.6m
Oregon OR 4,519 42.0%   167,292 37   $10.5m   105 17,525,702 $13.5m
Hawaii HI 3,609 31.1%   122,843 34   $7.7m   129 15,856,870 $12.1m
Puerto Rico PR 2,065 33.9%   89,047 43   $5.6m   139 12,340,061 $9.5m
Wisconsin WI 3,075 38.9%   124,328 40   $7.8m   86 10,688,530 $8.2m
S. Carolina SC 2,215 41.8%   108,858 49   $6.8m   85 9,298,728 $7.1m
Indiana IN 2,587 37.8%   107,090 41   $6.7m   81 8,659,370 $6.7m
Virginia VA 1,900 31.9%   85,192 45   $5.3m   68 5,778,780 $4.4m
Oklahoma OK 1,649 30.9%   70,463 43   $4.4m   77 5,453,092 $4.2m
Connecticut CT 1,157 32.1%   48,562 42   $3.0m   99 4,822,202 $3.7m
New Mexico NM 1,153 30.5%   45,009 39   $2.8m   97 4,367,756 $3.3m
Nebraska NE 1,242 35.7%   45,958 37   $2.9m   87 4,005,877 $3.1m
Alabama AL 1,120 27.7%   47,361 42   $3.0m   83 3,948,708 $3.0m
Alaska AK 1,506 40.7%   45,611 30   $2.9m   85 3,863,044 $3.0m
Idaho ID 1,125 36.3%   39,715 35   $2.5m   83 3,312,894 $2.5m
Arkansas AR 916 35.3%   38,164 42   $2.4m   77 2,929,166 $2.3m
Rhode Island RI 641 30.5%   30,379 47   $1.9m   96 2,915,100 $2.2m
Montana MT 835 39.4%   30,346 36   $1.9m   82 2,478,470 $1.9m
Kentucky KY 877 34.1%   35,396 40   $2.2m   70 2,490,601 $1.9m
Virgin Islands VI 463 41.4%   18,103 39   $1.1m   130 2,350,494 $1.8m
Iowa IA 761 38.0%   32,998 43   $2.1m   71 2,343,405 $1.8m
Mississippi MS 552 33.1%   23,563 43   $1.5m   92 2,171,388 $1.7m
N. Dakota ND 742 42.0%   25,906 35   $1.6m   65 1,686,116 $1.3m
Maine ME 455 35.2%   21,823 48   $1.4m   70 1,519,549 $1.2m
New Hampshire NH 309 28.8%   13,441 43   $0.8m   105 1,413,073 $1.1m
Kansas KS 498 37.1%   20,211 41   $1.3m   69 1,393,973 $1.1m
Wyoming WY 375 32.9%   15,047 40   $0.9m   84 1,265,272 $1.0m
S. Dakota SD 521 43.3%   18,627 36   $1.2m   61 1,144,103 $0.9m
Vermont VT 304 37.9%   13,508 44   $0.8m   61 822,176 $0.6m
W. Virginia WV 138 32.0%   5,686 41   $0.4m   52 297,121 $0.2m
Pacific Territories TT 18 21.3%   515 28   $0.0m   72 37,237 $0.0m

 

Note: delay data adjusted to reallocate "Late Aircraft Arrivals" caused data proportionally amongst other DOT-defined cause categories: carrier, NAS, weather and security.

Rate1 = $62.55/minute; Rate2 = $46/hour or $0.77/minute

Source: U.S. DOT; A4A Analysis