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Flight Delays Cost Passengers $16.7 Billion … Yes, Billion

Flight delays are an inconvenience, but according to a new study, they’re also an astronomical expense. Researchers at UC Berkeley found that delays come with a price tag of roughly $32 billion, with passenger costs accounting for half—a whopping $16.7 billion.

According to a release, “The comprehensive new study analyzed data from 2007 to calculate the economic impact of flight delays on airlines and passengers, the cost of lost demand, and the collective impact of these costs on the U.S. economy. The study authors found that increased delays directly correlate with increased costs.” 

Passenger costs were “calculated based on lost passenger time due to flight delays, cancellations and missed connections, plus expenses such as food and accommodations that are incurred from being away from home for additional time.”

At $16.7 billion, passenger costs were slightly more than double that of airlines, which amounted to $8.3 billion. Airline costs were largely due to crew, fuel, and maintenance.

The study also determined that flight delays reduced the U.S. GDP by $4 billion, saying “inefficiency in the air transportation sector increases the cost of doing business for other sectors, making the associated businesses less productive.”

This massive cost only strengthens the case for NextGen, a satellite-based replacement for the nation’s current, outdated air traffic control system. NextGen would significantly reduce delays and save fuel, and despite costing tens of billions of dollars, would likely save money over the long run.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commissioned the study, which was overseen by the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR) at Berkeley and co-authored by researchers from MIT, George Mason University, the University of Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

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