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$16.7 Billion: Cost of Flight Delays to Passengers Annually

Photo: Nikolay Okhitin

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have released a study determining the cost of flight delays on passengers, airlines and the economy to total $32.9 billion.

The impact on individual passenger time added up to $16.7 billion, which factored in flight delays, cancellations and missed connections, as well as extra food and accommodation.

Lead researcher Mark Hansen said previous studies focused on cost to airlines; this is the first comprehensive study of delays measuring impacts on passengers and the economy as well.

“While there are a lot of widely available data on flight delays, passenger itineraries and airline costs, this is the first attempt to fully exploit that information to measure the impacts of delay,” he said.

Hidden costs such as airlines padding their schedules in anticipation of delay were also factored in. Some passengers also will fly to a business meeting the night before to ensure being on time, according to researcher Cynthia Barnhart.

FAA commissioned the comprehensive study, citing suspicious statistics on previous research.

“The significance of this study is its use of innovative techniques to quantify the total cost of congestion to the aviation industry, the economy and society,” said David K. Chin, director of performance analysis and strategy at the FAA’s Strategy and Performance Business Unit. “These innovations created new economic measures for airline schedule padding, passenger delay impact and lost productivity.”

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