Using Weather Insights For Flight Routing Can Brighten The Bottom Line

Loknath Das

Miami air traffic control tower in stormy day.

Businesses managing air travel know the economic importance of reducing flight times and minimizing route disruptions. When weather interferes, both flight schedules and the bottom line can go haywire. That’s why having accurate weather insights can support large cost savings — especially during this busy fourth-quarter when, during peak operational times, 5,000 aircraft may share the sky.

When weather impacts air travel or airports, one of two things typically causes expenses to rise: disruptions of flight times and/or increases in aircraft weight.

With aircraft operating costs ranging from $1,500-$9,000/hour, any increase in flight time adds incremental expenses directly to the bottom line. Flight hours naturally increase when routes are delayed, cancelled or diverted to alternate airports. In fact, a single diversion can cost operators anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 depending on the size of the plane and length of planned flight.

Weather affects the weight of an aircraft when forecasted conditions require operators to carry extra fuel for landing at alternate airports or perhaps circle before eventually landing. The resulting excess weight can increase energy costs or require the offloading of paying passengers or cargo. Both scenarios directly impact the bottom line.

Timing also matters. That’s why decision makers use specific weather insights both for more long-range planning as well as for real-time tactical managing of preflight, departure and arrival phases. Routing decisions historically have been made  based on government-produced forecasts, which typically focus on worst-case weather scenarios and therefore tend to be more operationally restrictive. New advanced forecasting technology, however, can produce more accurate, detailed and specific data.

Having the most accurate weather insights — including data about ceilings, visibilities, winds and important weather conditions at specific airports – could reduce unnecessary cancellations. More time for safe flying means more revenue for operators.

Real-time monitoring of weather conditions also is imperative because turbulence accounts for more than 70 percent of weather-related flight incidents. New tools now analyze how immediate weather conditions may affect a specific route and deliver precise alerts to pilots in the cockpit, so they can make informed decisions to maintain safety, manage routes and optimize fuel efficiency.

Though weather can never be fully predictable, the availability of sophisticated weather insights has made flight planning more efficient. That’s a good thing in any season, however, at this time of year, when so many people and packages are crisscrossing the country, it can deliver the best kind offourth-quarter present to the bottom line: profit.