Swiss Re Insurance-Linked Fund Management

PCS - Emerging Risks, New Opportunities

If your flights delayed, blame the weather…


Weatherbill has published a study identifying the relationship between weather conditions and flight disruptions (both cancellations and delays) in the United States. The study quantifies the impact of temperature and precipitation on major airports and airlines and defines delay times by “minutes per inch of rain” and “minutes per degree of temperature deviation” at each major airport and airline.

Almost 14% of the near 21 million flights evaluated in the study were delayed or canceled due to weather. Weather disruptions vary by season, with the highest frequency in winter months (16%) followed by summer (15%), spring (13%), and fall (12%). Delays are more sensitive to precipitation than temperature (although the study notes that warmer temperatures reduce winter delays and increase summer delays).

Rain-related flight delay times range substantially across the 54 airports studied. During spring months, Atlanta suffers 29 delay minutes per inch of rain and San Francisco averages 41 delay minutes per inch of rain. Chicago’s O’Hare is one of the top five most rain-delayed airports year-round for arrivals, ranging from 75 delay minutes in the winter to 37 delay minutes per inch of rain in the summer. Reno can expect 54 delay minutes in the spring while Phoenix averages 14 delay minutes per inch of rain. Phoenix is in the top five most rain-delayed airports for departures in the spring, summer and fall.

Rain-based delay averages for the 16 larger airlines studied are based on inches of rainfall above normal. AirTran, Comair, Expressjet, and Skywest can all experience 15 delay minutes per inch of rain above normal, during the spring. Expressjet is one of the top five most rain-sensitive airlines every season for arrivals; ranging from 13 minutes in the winter to 11 minutes per inch of rain in the summer. When it comes to departures, Skywest and Comair are in the top five most rain-sensitive airlines every season.

The full study can be downloaded from Weatherbills’ research reports page.

Weather is a major factor in the profitability of the ravel industry in general. Having worked for a major tour operator who was impacted by the Atlantic hurricane season, I can safely say that there is a real need for niche weather risk products within this sector and research such as this is vital to promote the benefits of weather risk management.

Weatherbill is an innovative online platform facilitating weather risk protection.

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