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June 14, 2024

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We did a piece yesterday on the amount of passenger time airlines and airports waste.  Neither means to do this intentionally  -they know what time is worth.  It’s just that operations are messy.  For example, when last did you see an airport that was not also a construction site?

Airbus is examining airport operations to find solutions to some of the issues. They should be cheered for doing this.

As we usually do, we look at the data to illustrate a point. The chart below shows how significant taxi times are in the US. Typically, taxi times are equal to 13% of flight time.  That is a significant number.

DoT on-time; AirInsight

Airbus notes: Three topics need to be addressed to avoid any overload. They are reducing pilot workload; increasing safety through automated trajectory protection; and digitally assisting collaboration between flight crews and air traffic control.

You may recall Airbus toyed with e-taxi several years ago, and that project was quietly shelved.  To their credit, Airbus is still seeking ways to optimize operations.

Focusing on taxi operations is a good place to start.  Consider the increasing number of aircraft bumping into other aircraft or infrastructure and even “ramp rash.”  These ludicrous events lead to AOG, canceled flights, and expensive operational disruptions.   And this is without defining the wasted passenger time.

As the next chart illustrates, focusing on aircraft movements should be an issue. If this happens in the US, it almost certainly happens in other markets.  The rising taxi out times reflect exactly what Airbus is talking about – airport congestion.

DoT on-time; AirInsight

For the US, we estimate the airline industry’s operating costs at $117 per minute. In the first two months of 2024, 20% of US domestic flights arrived 15 minutes or more late, or 16,203 late-arriving flights. If the Airbus Optimate project could save one minute, so far this year, US airlines could have saved about $1m per month.

If that is not an impressive number, remember this is the slowest travel period of the year.

Looking back at 2023, we estimate the US airline industry saw over $8Bn in extra operating costs from arrivals that were 15 minutes (or more) late.  In 2023, 21.7% of flights arrived late; we estimate the industry averaged $122/minute in operating costs.  Every 1% of savings the Optimate project delivers is worth over $80 million per year in US airline operations.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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