Flight Delays Cost Passengers $16.7 B Per Year

Delayed flights aren’t just annoying, they’re expensive. A new FAA-funded study finds that they cost passengers $16.7 billion per year. That’s a lot of bags of peanuts.

Unlike previous studies, this one also included related passenger costs like time spent waiting for flights and then having to dash to make new plans when flights get canceled.

The cost to airlines? Only $8.3 billion per year. So airlines overbook flights, under-maintain planes, and the costs get mainly shouldered by the passengers? Nice. No wonder the skies are feeling less friendly these days.

Study: Flight delays cost passengers $16.7 billion [AP] (Thanks to Jerry!)

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  1. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    And it feels like nothing can be done about it. The airlines are puppet masters and what can the lowly consumer do when they need to get across an ocean or have to be across the country in less than two days?

    I try to fly with the “friendliest” carriers, but it just seems to be getting worse and worse.

  2. Yankees368 says:

    Sweet pic of DTW pre-Delta merger!

    • nybiker says:

      What happened to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport after the Delta merger?

      • MFfan310 says:

        Not much.

        Still, the red-tailed Northwest planes got repainted with red widget tails on a blue background, and Delta signage replaced Northwest signage.

  3. TheWillow says:

    How much is that per person/flight?

    Just wondering.

  4. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    Flying makes me hate America. Flying in Europe is just so much better.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      Asia, too.

    • !caybay says:

      Flying anywhere else is better. Flying Canada-Europe, I refuse to take flights that go through the U.S. The airlines are awful, and security is awful. United is only slightly cheaper than Air Canada, and it’s just not worth it.
      In Europe, I can’t believe how cheap the flights are. You have the super low cost airlines where nothing is included but it’s seriously cheap, and then you have other low cost airlines where things are still included! Flew Stockholm to Munich on Lufthansa, was the cheapest flight and it was free bags, free food and free beer!
      In Australia, Qantas is amazing. The flights were reasonably priced, the staff were friendly, and the food was actually rather good (and free).

  5. Slave For Turtles says:


    This says 706,600,000 passengers flew on 9,747,400 flights for the first 11 months of 2007. I don’t know how much the costs were over 11 months, and since December is so busy, I don’t want to average it out, but here goes a wild ass calculation:

    Assuming $16.7 billion in costs to the travelers (recall, over 12 months), that works out to $23.63 per passenger, $1,713.28 per flight, on average IF no one else flew for the entire month of December.

    Very nearly useless calculation, but perhaps it gives you some perspective.

    • Slave For Turtles says:

      My bad – this was supposed to be a reply to TheWillow.

    • TheWillow says:

      Thanks… Obviously these are rough estimates, but I do think it has value… telling someone they’re personally wasting $23/flight is a much more compelling figure than if it was say $0.23/flight.

    • thewritejerry says:

      Your assumption here is incorrect. The $16.7 billion figure in the article refers to delayed and cancelled flights only. Your calculation spreads the cost across every and all flights.

      • Slave For Turtles says:

        No, I did that on purpose. No traveler knows if he’s going to get inconvenienced, so I spread it over everyone.

        • thewritejerry says:

          But the figure quoted only refers to those actually delayed/cancelled. Spreading it across all passengers trivializes the actual loss.

    • Garbanzo says:

      Not useless at all. Provides insight by giving both an order of magnitude and an upper limit.

      You could refine the estimate by adding assumptions that December was as busy as an average month, or twice as busy as an average month. I’d guess the actual number was inbetween those two values.

      And…IAADA (I am a data analyst).

  6. ClaudeKabobbing says:

    So Dont Fly. Sure its inconvienent to drive sometimes but at one is not paying for crappy service and lost luggage, and well you know all the other hassels.

    • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

      Unfortunately, some of us have to deal with HASSLES of flying because of jobs (like the military, which is what affects me), or emergent situations such as death or immediate family illness. Also, there are plenty of cities in America whose citizens don’t need their own vehicles- like NYC or San Fran. A train takes DAYS. Just you know, food for thought.

      • Pax says:

        Not only do trains take days, but the tickets are as expensive as airplane tickets (or moreso) …!

        ~$150 an uncomfortable seat in an airplane for two hours … or ~$150, plus the cost of two or three meals, for a moderately-less-uncomfortable seat in a train for 24 hours. Per person. Each way.

        That’s what the comparison worked out to for our trip to Florida, from Massachusetts, in January of 2009.

    • dreamfish says:

      Driving to Europe does present some problems.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      When they build the trans-Pacific expressway to Asia, I’ll consider it.

      Also, cars that can travel at 600 MPH.

  7. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    None of this is the airports’ faults. Impossible!

  8. WHC999 says:

    WHY?? Why does it cost the airlines money for late flights? Do they pay a fine to the airport…or….??? I understand it costing the customer, ie…change of plans, unexpected hotels or rental cars. But just how does it cost the airlines themselves again?
    Enqiiring minds want to know.

    • AnthonyC says:

      They get less flights out of each employee, less utilization of airplanes and terminals?

    • Garbanzo says:

      I assume in some cases they need to pay overtime, if ground staff needs to be kept late to deal with an incoming late flight. If a delay pushes a flight crew beyond its allowed hours, they need to bring in fresh employees. The flight crew cycled out because of a ground delay is thus paid for the hours they sat on the ground, and the new crew is paid for the hours in the air–thus doubling employee costs for those hours. Flight schedules are so intricately intertwined that delaying one flight can mean they have to rearrange crew and aircraft for other flights, which incurs costs.

  9. OnePumpChump says:

    America: Land of the Externality

  10. redline says:

    I fly for a large regional airline in Chicago and I must say we usually run on time. The exception is bad weather which reduces airport capacity and slows things down (because airplanes need more room to maneuver around thunderstorms, instrument approaches require more spacing, etc.). Deicing in the winter also takes time. But aside from Mother Nature, we rarely have mechanical delays. Now I can’t speak for New York – the air traffic and delays there are no different that trying to get around in a car! So there – it’s not our fault!

  11. antifox says:

    When I flew to London I made sure I went British Air lucky was able to go non-stop from Ca.
    55lb bag limit didn’t pay extra for meals and in coach beer, mixed drinks free A great flight.

  12. sonneillon says:

    Flying Jetblue, or Southwest is pretty good.

    Jetblue especially.

  13. NeverLetMeDown says:

    Great argument for (a) upgrade to FAA facilities, (b) auctioning off landing slots at crowded airports so the airports themselves aren’t overbooked, particularly in the New York area.

  14. Jimmy37 says:

    These large numbers by so-called studies mean nothing. The error in their assumptions vary so widely as to make them useless, except to politicians and activists who an axe to grind.