10 Worst Weather U.S. Airports

By Jon Erdman
Published: November 25, 2013

The Cost of Flight Delays

In February 2012, Congress passed a bill providing funding to upgrade radar to GPS at the nation's busiest airports by mid-2015. In the meantime, the U.S. air traffic control system continues to feel the pressure of heavy passenger loads on a system slowly modernizing out of its remaining World War II-era radar systems.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), just over 21 percent of arriving flights were delayed by 15 or more minutes in the 12-month period from October 2012 through September 2013. A delay of roughly one in five flights may not sound significant, but consider the following facts during that same period:

  • Total number of domestic flights delayed:  1.22 million
  • Total number of domestic delay minutes:  70 million (Over 133 years)

Aside from the hassle, flight delays are costly. 

A study by the University of California-Berkeley estimated the following staggering cost of flight delays in the year 2007:

  • $32.9 billion total cost to U.S. economy, more costly than all U.S. hurricanes except Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
  • Of that total, $16.7 billion is borne by passengers in lost time and additional travel expenses.
  • Gross domestic product reduced by $4 billion.

In addition, a 2007 congressional study estimated 740 million gallons of additional jet fuel was burned due to flight delays, about five percent of total fuel consumption.

Weather Effect on Flight Delays

Percentage of all flight-delay minutes due to weather. (Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

What is weather's role in this?

Of those 21 percent of delayed arriving flights from October 2012 through September 2013, weather was the cause of just under 34 percent of those delays.  

Since June 2003 through the end of 2012, weather has accounted for one-third to one-half of all delay minutes, according to the BTS.  

Therefore, when considering all flights, on average, you could say roughly 7 percent to 10 percent of all U.S. flights are delayed by weather each year.

"A big snowstorm will severely affect most airport operations, but otherwise, most airports can handle the weather as long as volume doesn't exceed capacity," says Meteorologist Jen Carfagno (Facebook | Twitter).  

We examined 2012 BTS data for the 29 largest U.S. airports, including both the number of weather-related delays and the percentage of delays due to weather, to compile our 10 worst-weather airports list.


Featured Blogs

Hurricane Science Legend Dr. Robert Simpson Dies at Age 102

By Dr. Jeff Masters
December 19, 2014

Dr. Robert Simpson, one of the originators of the familiar Saffir-Simpson scale, passed away peacefully in his sleep today at the age of 102. He was the director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) from 1967 - 1974.

November 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By Christopher C. Burt
December 18, 2014

November was globally the 7th warmest such on record according to NOAA and 8th according to NASA (see Jeff Master’s blog for more about this). It was a cold month in the U.S. with some phenomenal lake-effect snowstorms. A powerful storm, dubbed a ‘Medicane’ formed in the Mediterranean Sea. Deadly floods occurred in Morocco, Italy, and Switzerland. It was the warmest November on record for Australia, Italy, Austria and much of Southeast Asia.Below are some of the month’s highlights.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.