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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.

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