FAA furloughs over… but was it much ado about nothing?

Last week the FAA furloughed roughly 10 percent of air traffic controllers as part of the sequestration cuts. This caused much conversation about the negative impact of the FAA furloughs on the airport system in the US. Looking at the departure performance data for US Airports from Sunday, April 21 through Saturday, April 27 there were on average 5,800 flights delayed per day or a total of 40,628 for the week.

Although, determining causality for delays is very tricky to pin down without complex models that factor in all things that impact air traffic performance, we are able to compare on-time performance percentage of the top 36 US airports for the two months prior (February 20-April 20, 2013) which was 78.87%, to the week of the sequester (April 21-27, 2013) which was 78.71%. The data we have indicates that the overall system yielded a similar on-time percentage rate as the period prior to sequestration.

See the individual on-time performance percentage for each of the airports we reviewed during the week of April 21 through April 27, 2013 sorted from worst to best.

FlightStats Graphic of Top US Airports Departure Performance 04.21-27.2013

Please note: The data we present does not attribute causality for delays. Causality for delays is a very difficult problem to address without specific attribution of cause in the data itself. To get causality, a model would have to be built that would have to take into account many factors including: seasonality, weather at key airport hubs, time of day when certain weather conditions exist, airline schedules in terms of planned departures and arrivals by time of day, etc. To establish causality, one would have to analyze data from multiple years, during the same time of year, exhibiting similar weather patterns, and do a lot of statistical analysis.