Expert Webinar: Reducing Delays, Cancellations, and Diversions Through Collaborative Traffic Flow Management


Leo Prusak, PASSUR VP Air Traffic Management Products and Strategy, (read Leo’s bio) discussed how the industry can be better informed to optimize airport capacity during congested or disrupted operations, to ensure the highest rates of completion, and reduce avoidable delays, cancellations, holding, and diversions.

Using extensive data, Leo showed the financial and customer service benefits of staying “ahead of the game” with PASSUR solutions that automatically alert to projected imbalances in airport arrival demand and capacity, and predict the optimal capacity for the airport.

ATC Portal was developed in partnership with our customers to use Big Data to help air traffic controllers, airlines, and airport operators more accurately predict and forecast airport capacity based on past performance under similar weather conditions. ATC Portal uses reliable data to create a baseline, or set of guidelines and expectations of what the operation ought to be able to deliver, and provides users help in matching that performance or adjusting their operations proactively to avoid expensive disruptions.

As Leo demonstrated in his presentation, the opportunity for cost savings and revenue enhancement can be significant. A respected study published by Nextor in 2010 showed that the direct cost to airlines of delays and cancellations is $8B annually, and the cost of lost demand to airlines is $3.9B annually. The overall economic impact is $30B.

More specifically, in his presentation Leo showed how at a single airport, for a single afternoon Ground Delay Program, the cost to airlines in setting the arrival rate lower than it could have been was between $240,000-$375,000 – and this airport can have more than 100 ground delay programs a year. These costs only calculate delay minutes – not the cost of cancellations, diversions, and missed connections.

Beyond cost savings, ultimately the point of better forecasting and managing airport capacity is that airlines will be able to schedule more flights to meet demand, thus driving revenue. Eventually this becomes a revenue growth tool, not just a cost management tool.

ATC Portal Value

  • Airlines cannot properly determine the balance between arriving demand and capacity, thus costly decisions are made without the benefit of accurate airport capacity forecasts.
  • The ideal state for an airport is one where traffic demand is equal to or less than airport capacity.
  • If capacity exceeds demand, then more planes could have arrived at the airport, resulting in avoidable delay and efficiency suffers.
  • If demand exceeds capacity, planes will be more likely to hold and divert. These are avoidable disruptions.
  • The greatest GDP impact NAS-wide occurred at the 12 largest airports in 2015, accounting for 92% of delays.
  • Cost for those delays is estimated at more than $300,000 per day, not including costs of cancelled flights.
  • PASSUR presented a few scenarios where ATC provides a “good” rate, a “better” rate, and a “best” rate. Under various conditions, these rates may vary greatly from the FAA Issued Delay.
  • At times, the difference between the delay cost issued versus the PASSUR ATC Portal delay cost forecast is significant. In one scenario, this cumulative difference reached almost $400,000 over 8 hours, without including other delay costs such as cancellations, holding, diversions, runway spacing, or taxi-out time.

GDP Analysis

GDP implemented immediately

  • GDP implemented with negative start times are very impactful to the system and users. A loss of capacity may not have been predicted or expected.
  • ATC Portal with P-FSM uses a 16-hour predictive feature matching runway configuration prediction and historical throughput with weather data to provide AAR guidance. Traffic managers get valuable assistance understanding typical operational outcomes.

Ground stop first, then a GDP within 30 minutes

  • When ground stops are used as a precursor to a GDP they are often associated with airborne holding, diversions, expanded mile-in-trail, extended taxi times, surface congestion, etc.
  • Being able to look into the short-term future with ATC Portal, users are able to reduce or eliminate these avoidable impacts. ATC Portal delivers runway configuration and capacity management to the people who need it.

Short GDP lead-time

  • GDP should be implemented more than 2 hours ahead of time to capture the flights before they board passengers or begin taxi. They are often the product of reactive rather than predictive decision-making.
  • Systemic disruption from short lead-time GDP can be avoided with the 16 hour capacity prediction and AAR guidance provided by ATC Portal.

Flexibility, Variable AAR

  • Historical hourly operational performance shows variable throughput is normal. There are a small percentage of cases where the GDP rate should be the same each hour. Current tables used to select airport arrival rates lack insight and historical throughput results. They are occasionally accurate at best.
  • ATC Portal provides relevant guidance on historical throughput data for specific runway configurations by hour, day of week, and time of year.

GDP Modified

  • GDP parameter modification can be a remnant of deficient planning, poor visibility into a solution, or unexpected condition changes. Revisions decrease GDP accuracy causing the system and airline performance to suffer with increasing unpredictability.
  • ATC Portal’s 16-hour prediction provides stability, reliability, and precision. Getting GDP rates and timing right will reduce the instances where modifications are necessary

GDP Cancelled Early

  • Understanding when to cancel delay use is critical. GDP that run too long often cause unrecoverable impacts and preemptive airline cancellations.
  • ATC Portal’s 16 hour prediction of AAR provides capacity guidance correlated to weather forecasts. GDP time parameters can be more accurate when implemented thereby avoiding the issuance of avoidable delay.

If you have any questions about the webinar discussion, contact Leo Prusak by email or call 203.989.9194.