Airlines' snow price-tag may have topped $80M

Weather-related flight delays that piled up earlier this week as snow closed airports on the East Coast could have cost airlines more than $80 million, according to an analysis conducted by The Hill.

A 2010 study conducted by the Universities of Maryland, Virginia, California-Berkeley, George Mason University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculated that flight delays cost airlines $8.3 billion per year.

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The study used statistics from 2007, which were then the most recent available. During that year, 7,455,458 flights were scheduled and 24.2 percent of them were delayed. This equated to 1,804,220 flights being thrown off schedule.

Using the universities’ figures, the economic impact of the 2007 delays was about $4,600 per flight.

The airline traffic monitoring website FlightAware.com said there were 17,570 cancellations this week as a result of the east coast snowstorms.

That works out as an economic loss of about $80.8 million, using the earlier study’s “dollars-per-delay” figures as a rule of thumb. 

The airline industry has generally stayed mum on the per-flight cost of weather-related flight delays, focusing instead on efforts to rebook passengers.

This week’s snowstorm, which was dubbed Snochi by some Twitter users, wrecked havoc on flight service at several major airlines, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Charlotte’s Douglas International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield led the nation in cancellations this week with 1,501 outgoing and 1,510 incoming flights shelved, according to FlightAware.com

Charlotte’s Douglas airport was next with 1,478 outgoing and 1,489 incoming flights cancelled, according to the website. 

The full study on the economic impact of flight delays can be read here