Gift Buying Guide: The Best Private Jets Under $500 Million

I’m fascinated by airline operations. Many major airlines have fleet sizes upwards of 800 aircraft. Now consider many of these planes operate non-stop, requiring hundreds-of-thousands of litres of fuel for each journey, and a small army of staff to keep running, operating costs can quickly add up.

Recently reading an article titled, “Qatar’s emir ‘gives $500m private jet to Turkey” (a Boeing 747-8i), I started exploring the costs of operating your own private jet.

With Christmas quickly approaching, I’ve created a (tongue in cheek) buyers guide for private jets. When a pair of socks won’t cut it, perhaps a private jet will suffice?

Methodology

The following analysis uses aircraft data (including list prices, number of seats, and fuel efficiency) sourced from aircraftcompare.com. Jet fuel prices used to calculate fuel costs were obtained from IATA in October 2018.

Analysis

List Cost of Private Jets

List Cost of Private Jets (2018)

Download chart.

Price Rank Manufacturer Model Price Ave (millions) USD
58 Cessna Citation 5
57 Cessna Citation M2 5
56 Cessna Citation CJ2 6
55 Embraer Phenom 300 7
54 Cessna Citation CJ3 7
5 Airbus A340 Private Jet 236
4 Boeing 777 VIP 280
3 Boeing 747 8 VIP 295
2 Boeing New Air Force One 390
1 Airbus A380 Private Jet 402

View full list.

The A380, the largest commercial passenger plane with a potential capacity of 900 passengers, is offered by Airbus as a private jet. The company has reported 5 orders, potentially worth almost $2 billion. Many articles detailing the incredible configurations of private A380’s exist online (including flying garages).

At the other end of the scale, smaller regional private aircraft with ranges below 5,000 kilometers (London to New York is 5,567 km) can be purchased for under $10 million.

List Cost Per Seat of Private Jets

List Cost per Seat of Private Jets (2018)

Download chart.

Rank cost per seat Manufacturer Model Cost per seat (millions) USD
57 Cessna Citation M2 0.70
56 Cessna Citation 0.95
55 Boeing BBJ 0.99
54 Cessna Citation Encore 1.09
53 Embraer Phenom 300 1.11
5 Boeing New Air Force One 3.82
4 Airbus A340 Private Jet 3.93
3 Dassault Falcon 7X 4.78
2 Boeing 777 VIP 5.71
1 Boeing 747 8 VIP 9.22

View full list.

The current Air Force One (a highly modified Boeing 747) has room for 102 passengers. Each seat, based on the list cost of $390 million, is worth $3.82 million each. A modified Boeing 747 8 VIP with an average cost of $295 million has just 32 seats, making it the private aircraft with the highest cost per seat at $9.22 million each!

Only 3 planes have cost per seat less than $1 million. The Boeing BBJ, is the only mid to long-range jet (range 7,223km) with a cost per seat less than $1 million.

Private Jet Fuel Efficiency

Private Jet Fuel Efficiency (2018)

Download chart.

Fuel cost p / litre / pax rank Manufacturer Model Fuel cost p / litre USD Fuel cost p / litre / pax USD
51 Boeing Business Jet $1.57 $0.02
50 Boeing BBJ $2.16 $0.03
49 Dassault Falcon 2000 LX $0.76 $0.04
48 Dassault Falcon 900LX $0.80 $0.04
47 Dassault Falcon 2000 DX $0.82 $0.04
5 Embraer Legacy 450 $1.12 $0.14
4 Airbus A340 Private Jet $8.62 $0.14
3 Boeing 777 VIP $7.39 $0.15
2 Embraer Phenom 300 $1.08 $0.18
1 Boeing 747 8 VIP $8.62 $0.27

View full list.

Don’t forget, even after spending millions on a jet, you’re going to need to fuel it too (along with all the other ongoing costs). The most fuel efficient jet in our list is the Boeing Business Jet. Assuming it flies at full capacity (63), each passenger will cost $0.02 per kilometre they travel. In contrast, each passenger on a 747 8 VIP will cost $0.27 per kilometre they travel (max pax 32).

The A380 Private Jet costing $10.35 per kilometre to fly and Air Force One costing $8.62 per kilometre to fly are much more fuel efficient when compared to the 747 8 VIP because they all have the potential to carry significantly more passengers (both over 100).

Improvements

In some cases, the aircraft pricing data seems slightly inaccurate (perhaps out-of-date). For example, Boeing and Airbus publish the list prices of aircraft on their website. The lists do not include private jets, but in some cases the private jet cost is lower than the commercial (which does not appear correct). As such, the accuracy of this analysis would be improved if pricing and specifications were obtained directly from the manufacturers, if possible.

tl;dr

Long-range private jets (range greater than 10,000km) can be purchased for upwards of $39 million (Gulfstream V) to $402 million (Airbus A380 Private Jet). Don’t forget the operating costs though. An A380 will cost around $160,000 to fuel.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

 

The Billion Dollar Airline Routes

I like to board last. I’ve never understood the appeal of being on the plane any longer than I need too (I’m yet to travel in business class).

A lot of my travel is international, and it often involves flying on the giants of the sky, including Boeing 747s (not for much longer) and the huge Airbus A380.

As I waited to board an A380 on a trip to San Francisco from London this year I did some back of the napkin (literally) calculations at the departure gate. Assuming the 469 seats on the flight were occupied sold at the approximate cost I paid for the ticket ($1000), equals a potential ticket revenue for that flight of $469,000 for the airline. Bear in mind, it is estimated an A380 costs between $26,000 – $29,000 per hour to operate (and the flight is almost 12 hours)!

Clearly my calculation is far from accurate. Though it got me thinking, with multiple flights being operated daily throughout the year, some routes might be generating billions of dollars in revenue yearly.

Methodology

OAG leverages the world’s largest network of air travel data to provide accurate, timely, actionable digital information and applications to the world’s airlines, airports, government agencies and travel-related service companies.

The company produced a report in February 2018 titled: “Key Facts Behind the World’s Busiest Routes”. It details the world’s busiest trunk routes in terms of the volume of flights that operate on them. For each of the 20 routes the report lists various statistics for each route from passenger numbers to average route length.

To estimate route revenue I used Skyscanner (on 04/09/2018) to calculate the cheapest economy return flight (5-day) for the 20 routes 6 months into the future (04/03/2018 – 08/03/2018)

Using these statistics, I performed the following analysis.

The average stage length for the 20 routes is 1384.05km. 19 of the 20 routes could be considered short-haul flights (below 2,562km). The only long-haul route (cross continent) is London (LHR) to New York (JFK) with an average stage length of 5,536km.

1 of the routes operates in North America / Europe, 1 in the Middle East, 2 of the routes are in Europe, 2 in North America, and 14 in Asia.

Results

Aircraft used on routes

Count of aircraft type operating on top 20 routes 2018

Download chart.

The choice of aircraft is an important one. Newer aircraft are more fuel efficient, others can fly longer distances.

19 of top 20 busiest routes use Airbus A318/319/320/321 aircraft. Given the majority of the routes (17) all operate outside North America (Boeing’s largest market) this is unsurprising.

The Boeing 737 still proves popular 38 years since it first rolled off the production line (15 operating). Interestingly, despite many routes being considered short-haul, the Airbus A380, with upwards of 469 seats, is operated on 6 routes.

Route revenues

Estimated revenue for top 20 routes 2018

Download chart.

Unsurprisingly the longest, and most expensive ($693) route by lowest ticket price (New York JFK – London LHR) generates the most revenue (over $2 billion dollars). The route carries 3,049,370 passengers yearly (ranked 8th by passengers of all routes) with 3,651,659 available. That is a is a passenger load factor of 84% (above the average load factor of 80% for all routes).

The other two routes that generate more than $1 billion are Hong Kong – Taipei ($1.52 billion) and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport – Singapore ($1.06 billion).

Route revenues for airlines with largest market share

Download chart.

British Airways is the largest operator on the New York JFK – London (42% of all flights) and generates an estimated revenue of $887,549,632.20. Assuming the average ticket cost is 20% higher than the lowest price I found (very likely) would mean this is a $1 billion route for BA. This is almost double the earnings of the two largest airlines on the second and third highest revenue generating routes.

Revenue per km

Revenue per km on top 20 routes (2018)

Download chart.

Given the comparatively short distance between Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Jakarta) – Singapore  (880km) and large passenger revenue $1,519,775,162.00) means it generates the most revenue per kilometre flown ($63.25). Compare that to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport – Kuala Lumpur (1,127km) which generates just $5.82 per kilometre.

Improvements

Most of the calculations in this post rely on accurate average ticket prices for routes. Unfortunately I was limited to using SkyScanner to estimate average prices. The biggest improvement to this analysis would be to include accurate ticket revenues.

tl;dr

New York JFK – London LHR potentially generates $2 billion dollars in revenue from ticket sales each year.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

Internet at 35,000 Feet. How Hard Can it Be?

Ten hours, possibly longer, stuck in a small metal tube with hundreds of other people each wrestling for the tiniest amount of extra space. Flying can be a chore.

Electronics powering music, movies and games, are staples of modern flyers that help to pass the time. Airlines invest millions in onboard entertainment systems to improve passenger experience.

A quick Google search will show you that many passengers, including myself, are now regularly asking if internet services are found onboard flights. The same search will also show you how poor these services can be, assuming they exists at all.

Boeing’s early in-flight Internet service, Connexion, launched in 2001 (since discontinued). 17 year later, how has the market for in-flight internet developed?

Methodology

Each year Skytrax put together a list of the top 100 airlines around the world using a range of variables. The most recent is the 2017 version. Due to the merger of Alaska Airlines (36) and Virgin America (43) I have reduced the list to 99, removing Virgin America.

For each of the 99 airlines I then visited their websites to identify if:

  1. they offer onboard internet
  2. the cost of internet services, if applicable

Not all airlines clearly document wether internet services exist. Many use the umbrella term “WiFi onboard”, however, in many cases this does not include internet access, instead just access to a network with inflight content (similar to that offered on traditional inflight entertainment systems). Those who did not explicitly document internet access were recorded as not to offer it.

Similarly, many airlines are slowly rolling out wifi. In some cases only a few routes served by an airline have in-flight internet, for others the coverage is more widespread. Due to lack of information about internet access by route the actual prevalence of internet onboard is not accounted for.

The cost of in-flight internet, which almost all airlines charge for, is rather complex. There is no unified standard for providing services, some airlines charge based on data usage, others by time, and in some case some by the originating country of the flight. Due to lack of standardisation, I only documented the airlines that offered free access or paid access to in-flight internet.

Finally, I assigned each airline a classification based on the routes they serve, either regional (only short/medium-haul routes) and international (at least one long-haul route), the assumption being that fewer regional flights will offer in-flight internet because of the shorter flight times.

Results

In-flight internet coverage (all airlines)

Skytrax 100 Airlines with Internet Available Onboard (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

67 of airlines in the top 99 offer internet on at least one of their routes. The top 20 Skytrax rated airlines all have in-flight internet services available. There is a strong correlation between in-flight internet and an airlines Skytrax rating — those towards the bottom of the rankings tend not to offer internet services to customers.

In-flight internet coverage (international airlines)

Skytrax 100 International Airlines with Internet Available Onboard (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

Of the 73 international airlines covered, 53 offered onboard internet.

In-flight internet coverage (regional airlines)

Skytrax 100 Regional Airlines with Internet Available Onboard (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

Unsurprisingly, a smaller share of regional airlines offer onboard internet — 14 of the 26 regional airlines offer the service.

Free in-flight internet for business of first class travellers (all airlines)

Skytrax 100 Airlines with Free Internet Available Onboard for Business or First (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

The cost to retrofit planes with internet capabilities represents a significant investment for an airline. Many in-flight internet providers have business models to make a much money as possible to a very small number of people charging eye-watering prices to access internet services. 11 of the 99 airlines offer free in-flight internet as standard to business or first class customers.

Skytrax 2017 rank Airline Type Free internet in first or business
4 Emirates International Yes
10 Garuda Indonesia International Yes
12 Turkish Airlines International Yes
28 Norwegian International Yes
38 Aer Lingus International Yes
39 jetBlue Airways Regional Yes
67 Philippine Airlines International Yes
72 China Eastern International Yes
82 Icelandair International Yes
84 Gulf Air International Yes
98 Air China International Yes

Full table.

Free in-flight internet for economy travellers (all airlines)

Skytrax 100 Airlines with Free Internet Available Onboard for Economy (Jan 2018)

Download chart.

Only 6 of the 99 airlines offer some level of free in-flight internet to economy flyers. However, most of these services are limited by time or data volume making anything other than checking emails impossible.

Skytrax 2017 rank Airline Type Free for all
4 Emirates International Yes (limited)
10 Garuda Indonesia International Yes (limited)
28 Norwegian International Yes (unlimited)
67 Philippine Airlines International Yes (limited)
98 Air China International Yes (limited)
39 jetBlue Airways Regional Yes (limited)

Full table.

Norwegian deserve a special mention not just because they offer an unlimited in-flight internet service, where available, but also because of the high number of their routes where this service is available.

tl;dr

67 of the top 99 Skytrax airlines offer in-flight internet. International carriers most likely to offer the service (72%) when compared to their regional counterparts (54%).

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

The Worlds Shortest Commercial Flight. 2 Minutes to Fly 3 Kilometres

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Wednesday.

The Time Zone system counts 12 hours in either direction from Greenwich and meets up more or less in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This imaginary boundary is called the International Date Line and anywhere it meets, an extremely strange thing happens. Time jumps ahead 24 hours – an entire day. If you fly from China to the West Coast of the US, for example, the jump can be particularly tough on the body.

Flying long-haul can be very tough on your body. Timezone changes mixed with hours of sitting uncomfortably (unless you’re lucky to fly business class or above) is not something many look forward too.

Timezone changes can work both ways. When Concorde was in operation (1976 – 2003) flying from London to New York you could arrive, in terms of local time, before you left. A New York to London flight took only 3 hours 20 minutes (the fastest journey was 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds!).

How bad does it get? What are the longest plane journeys?

Methodology

I collected data from Wikipedia about commercial aircraft ranges and both operational and retired commercial routes for comparison.

Analysis

Aircraft ranges

Top 10 max aircraft range

Download chart.

The biggest limitation to flying distance is aircraft — it takes a lot of fuel to keep a plane in the air.

The Boeing 777-200LR (the LR stands for Long Range) is the aircraft with the largest potential range, 17,395km (the circumference of the earth is 40,008km).

Did you know? The aircraft with the longest ranges are: 1. Boeing 777-200LR (17,395km), 2. Airbus A340-500 (16,670km), 3. Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (15,750km).

Longest distance routes (by aircraft type)

10 Longest Flight distance by Aircraft

Download chart.

The longest route (distance) operated by a Turboprop aircraft is the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 (1726 km / PD175).

All of the 10 longest flights are operated by jet powered aircraft. The longest route (distance) operated by a Jetliner aircraft is the Boeing 777-200LR (14,524km / QR 921). This is just under 3000km short of the aircrafts max operating range (17,395km).

Notably, flight SV 41 operated by an Boeing 777-300ER between Jeddah and LA takes about 16 hours 55 mins to cover 13,400km. However, flight UA 179 (San Francisco to Singapore) covers a longer distance (13,600km) but is 35 minutes shorter in duration (16 hours 20 mins) operated on a Boeing 787-9.

Longest distance (by active routes)

10 Longest distance flights (active routes)

Download chart.

Rank (dist.) From – To Flight number Distance km Scheduled duration Aircraft type
1 Auckland-Doha QR 921 14524 17:35:00 Boeing 777-200LR
2 Auckland-Dubai EK 449 14203 17:15:00 Airbus A380-799
3 Dallas/Fort Worth-Sydney QF 8 13804 16:55:00 Airbus A380-800
4 San Francisco-Singapore SQ 31 13593 16:55:00 Airbus A350
5 San Francisco-Singapore UA 179 13593 16:20:00 Boeing 787-9
6 Johannesburg-Atlanta DL 201 13582 16:40:00 Boeing 777-200LR
7 Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles EY 171 13502 16:30:00 Boeing 777-200LR
8 Dubai-International-Los Angeles EK 215 13420 16:35:00 Airbus A380-800
9 Jeddah-Los Angeles SV 41 13409 16:30:00 Boeing 777-300ER
10 Doha-Los Angeles QR 739 13367 16:25:00 Boeing 777-200LR
11 Dubai-Houston EK 211 13144 16:20:00 Airbus A380-800

Full ranking.

Did you know? The longest routes (distance) currently in operation are: 1. QR921 Auckland – Doha (14,524km / 17h35m / 777-200LR), 2. EK449 Auckland – Dubai (14,203km / 17h15m / A380-800), 3. QF8 Dallas – Sydney (13,804km / 16h55m / A380-800)

Longest distance (by discontinued routes)

10 Longest discontinued flights by distance

Download chart.

The longest journey (distance) ever operated was SQ21 Newark – Singapore (15,345km) and took 18h50m (ouch!). This route was flown by a A340-500 (max range 16,670km).

SQ37, LA – Singapore (14,114km) took 18h05m flown on an A340-500. This journey is almost an hour longer than QR921 Auckland – Doha (14,524km / 17h35m) currently flown on a 777-200LR. Both routes are about equal in distance and the direction of travel is the same. The time difference can be attributed to cruising speeds of each aircraft: 777-200LR = 1037km/h vs. A340-500 = 945 km/h — about 100 km/h slower.

Shortest distance (by active routes)

10 Shortest flights by distance

Download chart.

Rank (dist.) From To Flight Number Distance (km) Scheduled duration (min) Aircraft Type
10 Kos-Kalymnos A3 7036/7037 23 20 De Havilland Canada Dash 8
9 Karpathos-Kasos Island OA 34 22 5 De Havilland Canada Dash 8
8 Cayman Brac-Little Cayman KX 4421 22 10 DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300
7 Papeete (Fa’a’ā)-Moorea VT 201 18 15 ATR 72
6 Saipan-Tinian FP 101 17.4 10 Piper PA-31 Navajo
5 Connemara-Inishmaan RE-XXX 16.8 6 Britten-Norman Islander
4 Hoʻolehua (Molokai Airport)-Kalaupapa LW 270/280/290 14.2 10 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan
3 Minami-Daito-Kita-Daito RAC835/RAC836 12 15 Bombardier Dash 8
2 Caye Chapel-Caye Caulker MW 2100 3.8 2 Cessna 208 Caravan
1 Westray-Papa Westray LOG312/LOG313 2.73 2 Britten-Norman Islander

Full ranking.

Anyone who has spent 17 hours on a plane knows how tough it can be on the body. That said, flights where you spend longer in the airport then in the air can be frustrating.

The shortest route flown by time and distance is between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland. The distance is 2.73km and the flight takes just 2 minutes. It’s a hotly contested route for airlines. In 2013 a one-way ticket was priced at £21 (a brief search did not uncover recent prices).

Interestingly, the 9th shortest flight by distance, Karpathos-Kasos Island (22km), takes just 5 minutes on the De Havilland Canada Dash 8.

Did you know? The shortest routes (distance) currently flown are: 3. Minami-Daito – Kita-Daito (12km / 15m), 2. Caye Chape – Caye Caulker (3.8km / 2m), 1. Westray and Papa Westray (2.73km / 2m).

Did you know? The shortest routes (time) currently flown are: 3. Karapathos – Kasos Island (22km / 5m), 2. Caye Chape – Caye Caulker (3.8 / 2m), 1. Westray and Papa Westray (2.73km / 2m).

Improvements

I would like to compare how the flight duration differences changed based on average cruising speed of different aircraft.

tl;dr

On 5 February 2017, Qatar Airways started nonstop flights between Doha and Auckland, making this flight the longest in the world. The flight covers 14,524 kilometres and is operated by Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

British Airways’ IT Failure Cost the Airline €17,246 a Minute

Well, what a weekend it has been for British Airways.

Thankfully I wasn’t travelling out of Heathrow, my local airport, due to the long weekend here in the UK. However I do know of many friends who’ve had their holidays ruined by the “IT failure” that led to the mass cancellation of flights on Saturday and Sunday by British Airways.

The airline has been going through heavy cost-cutting over recent years. I’m almost certain the events this weekend have wiped out any savings they’ve made. Their share price has dropped by £175mm alone. Though how much might this fiasco directly cost the airline?

Methodology

Airhelp, a company that helps travellers claim compensation for flight delays and cancellations, put together a dataset detailing British Airways flights and estimated passenger numbers for scheduled departures this weekend (27/05/2017 – 28/05/2017) from airports around the world.

In this dataset they split out delayed flights and those that were cancelled. If you booked a flight that departed from Europe or was with a European airline, you  have rights under EU law if your flight is delayed or cancelled. The amount that can be claimed is determined by length of delay, length of flight and wether the flight was cancelled completely.

Using this data it was possible to estimate British Airways’ potential liability for passenger compensation for Saturday (27/05/2017) and Sunday (28/05/2017).

All figure are quoted in Euro’s (EUR).

Results

Worst affected airports (by passengers delayed / cancelled)

Tot affected pax rank Airport Tot delayed pax Tot cancelled pax Tot affected pax
1 LHR 2829 46303 49132
2 LGW 444 4392 4836
3 AMS 284 1153 1437
4 EDI 222 1210 1432
5 JFK 0 1404 1404
6 GLA 243 1072 1315
7 NCE 57 1210 1267
8 GVA 358 847 1205
9 FCO 162 1020 1182
10 DUB 201 910 1111

Full list.

Passengers at LHR (Heathrow), British Airways’ UK hub, saw the worst of the problems. In total 49,132 passengers suffered, 46,303 of them has their flights cancelled.

LGW (Gatwick) was the second worst affected airport for cancelled and delayed flights. 4,836 passengers were affected in total, a much lower number than at Heathrow.

Worst affected airports (by estimated compensation liability)

tot compensation rank Airport 2705 tot compensation (eur) 2805 tot compensation (eur) tot compensation (eur) tot pax
1 LHR 16,819,509 4,414,834 21,234,343 49132
2 LGW 2,067,489 32,324 2,099,813 4836
3 JFK 891,252 891,252 1404
4 DXB 515,516 515,516 668
5 HKG 477,353 477,353 619
6 SFO 435,586 435,586 686
7 EDI 160,470 265,370 425,840 1432
8 AMS 171,197 253,900 425,097 1437
9 GLA 149,743 240,866 390,609 1315
10 GVA 180,207 168,398 348,605 1205

Full list.

Unsurprisingly Heathrow tops the list with a potential liability of €21,234,342.77. This equates to €7373 per minute in compensation (21mm / 2880 min)! Ouch.

Remember, one variable that affects the amount of compensation you can claim is the distance of a flight. As BA tend to fly in/out of the UK, passengers flying from/to airports further away from the UK can typically claim more. This is why flights departing from airports like Hong Kong have high total compensation liabilities (€477,352.64) in comparison to passenger numbers (619).

Overall, the average compensation liability per airport was €245,448.

Worst affected countries (by estimated compensation liability)

Liability rank Country eligible flights eligible seats eligible pax liability (EUR)
1 GB 754 135500 109890 43,490,141
2 US 66 19767 16031 9,618,622
3 FR 78 11322 9182 2,414,753
4 ES 62 9845 7984 2,208,475
5 IT 66 9980 8094 2,187,186
6 DE 59 7876 6387 1,596,859
7 CA 10 2994 2428 1,457,019
8 IN 11 2808 2277 1,366,148
9 GR 24 3840 3114 1,245,696
10 AE 8 2182 1770 1,061,956

Full list.

As British Airways operates out of the UK, it is unsurprising to see compensation liabilities and passengers affected to be highest from British airports. Passengers flying British Airways from the US were the second worst affected (16k passengers / € 9.6mm compensation liability). There were significantly more affected BA passengers from the US than other countries (excluding the UK).

Average claim amounts

Average claim amount by airport histogram

Download chart.

There is a fairly even spread of maximum compensation passengers are eligible to claim.

Typically airports a long distance from the UK – for example DXV, PVG, HKG – have the highest average amount passengers can claim in compensation (€771.43) as discussed above.

European airports typically have the lowest amount passengers can claim in compensation (€264.53) due to their distance from the UK (or total flight time).

Total liability

tot affected flights tot seats tot pax tot compensation (eur)
Sat 27/5 515 95607 77537 € 34,193,780.20
Sun 28/5 243 43273 35094 € 15,476,631.72
Total 758 138880 112631 € 49,670,411.92

Full table.

In total it is estimated British Airways “IT failure” affected 758 worldwide flights with 112,631 passengers due to fly on them.

Based on EU compensation rules, BA is potentially liable to pay €49,670,411.92 in passenger compensation for the two days of delays and cancellations this weekend. Or €17,246 a minute (49.5mm / 2880 min)!

tl;dr

BA is potentially liable to pay €49,670,411.92 in passenger compensation for the two days of delays and cancellations this weekend.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Airlines Owe Passengers Over 3 Billion Dollars in Compensation (and Counting)

Passengers bumped on overbooked flights has been in the news ALOT recently.

Many flyers on EU airlines (or from EU countries) are becoming privy to the fact they could be eligible to claim compensation for delayed flight in Europe. Airhelp, a company that helps passengers claim compensation from airlines, advises delays over 3 hours are typically eligible for compensation.

If you live in the UK you’ll be aware of the huge liability banks have had for PPI payouts in the last 10 years. With many airlines operating on the brink of bankruptcy according to some sources; how much are airlines potentially liable for in compensation payouts?

Methodology

Airhelp, a company that helps passengers claim compensation for delayed flights, provided me with a dataset of airports around the world, number of delayed flights (and seats) eligible for compensation, and a calculated estimate of what the total potential liability was for each airport for compensation during 2016 (based on regulation EC261 which covers delayed, cancelled and overbooked flights). Note, compensation is paid by airlines, not airports. Therefore, this post highlights the airports with the highest number of delays, over-bookings, etc, but is not split out to consider individual airlines.

Whilst the dataset covers a large number of airports around the world (5000), only a subset of airports have data for delayed eligibly (574). This is for 2 reasons; 1) compensation rules differ around the world (see EU vs. US, for example) therefore it is difficult to produce accurate estimates for each geography. 2) Airhelphas a commercial interest in the EU market.

Airhelp provided monetary data in Euro’s (EUR). To keep currency consistency with my other posts on this blog I have converted all figures to US Dollars (USD) using the exchange rate of 1 EUR = 1.09 USD (correct 30th April 2017 via xe.com).

Additional datasets used were from the FAA (US) and CAA (UK) for total aircraft movements at each airport (to calculate the percentage of delayed flights within the US and UK). This data did not differentiate between arriving and departing flights (only departing flights are considered for compensation eligibility), I therefore assumed 50% of operation were departures (roughly in line with LHR figures).

Results

Spread of liability by airport

Flight-delay-compensation-liability-by-airport-2016

Download chart.

The majority of airports were liable for less than 10 million in compensation during 2016 (241 airports), though 61 airports were liable for more than this.

241 airports were liable for more than 1 million USD, and 455 liable for over 100K USD, and 566 liable for over 10K USD. Only 9 were liable for less, with VST Stockholm Vasteras Apt bottom of the list with a liability to 14 passengers totalling $3815 USD (avg. $272.50 USD each).

The compensation liability for all airports considered (574) is 3 billion USD ($3,001,339,552.25 USD).

Top 10 airports by liability

rank liability airport code seats eligible for liability liability USD 2016 30Apr17 Seats per flight eligible for liability Avg. Compensation per seat USD 2016 30Apr17
1 LHR 544,343 265,998,150 167 488
2 CDG 370,152 168,216,158 157 455
3 FRA 284,619 118,030,459 143 414
4 MAD 256,543 98,339,909 144 384
5 AMS 250,153 95,679,110 121 383
6 LGW 239,801 87,262,730 143 364
7 JFK 120,174 78,582,024 192 654
8 MUC 235,045 78,321,378 111 334
9 CPH 200,177 70,264,152 121 351
10 BCN 187,368 61,357,899 147 327

Full list.

The top 3 airports (by liability) accounted for 0.5 billion USD of total liability for ll airports ($552,244,766.75 USD). The top 10 airports accounted for 1.1 billion USD of total liability ($1,122,051,967.75 USD), or one-third of total liability.

Airlines who flew out of Heathrow LHR during 2016 were liable for passenger compensation claims to the tune of $0.25 billion USD ($265,998,150.00 USD) — unsurprising given capacity issues at the airport.

Spread of delays

If you booked a flight that departed from Europe or was with a European airline, you might have rights under EU law if your flight is delayed to claim the following compensation:

Delay to your arrival Flight distance Compensation USD 30Apr17
3 hours or more Less than 1,500km 272.50
Between 1,500km and 3,500km 436.00
More than 1,500km and within the EU 436.00
3-4 hours More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport 327.00
4 hours or more More than 3,500km, between an EU and non-EU airport 654.00

via: Citizens Advice (UK)

Compensation-liability-USD-per-seat-2016

Download chart.

Average compensation per seat groups at both end of the spectrum, 175 airports owe an average of $270 – $300 USD per seat (lowest claim possible is $272.50 USD), 174 owe an average of $630 – $660 USD (max claim possible is $654 USD). Note, values are per seat (not passenger) this is because a passenger can be delayed multiple times per year and thus eligible for more than one compensation claim.

Worst performing airports for on-time departures (US /  UK only)

rank liability airport code departures est flights eligible for liability % flights liable seats eligible for liability liability USD 2016 30Apr17
1 LCY 42,585 953 2.24% 55,838 15,336,355
2 LHR 237,482 3262 1.37% 544,343 265,998,150
3 LGW 140,333 1677 1.20% 239,801 87,262,730
4 ABZ 48,078 541 1.13% 23,151 6,319,139
5 SOU 21,412 224 1.05% 8,018 2,205,343
6 EDI 61,110 609 1.00% 48,585 14,382,632
7 GLA 49,064 459 0.94% 24,779 7,058,731
8 BHX 56,592 506 0.89% 41,785 12,705,858
9 LBA 22,152 183 0.83% 7,727 2,348,432
10 NCL 28,132 231 0.82% 11,767 3,738,673

Full list.

UK airports make up all 10 of the worst airports for departure operations by compensation liability. 2.24% of flights taking of from LCY London City Airport were liable for compensation claims from passengers.

Note, this dataset only contains US and UK airports for comparison.

Improvements

There are two clear improvements that can be made to allow for a more comprehensive analysis.

Firstly, having access to addition compensation data for more airports with local compensation rules (vs. just EU) could provide interesting analysis into best regions for compensation, worst regions for liability, etc.

Secondly, accurate operations departure data for all major worldwide airports would improve calculations. Due to the datasets used, the above workings only consider some US airports and UK airports, whilst also use estimated commercial departure figures (departures=total commercial operations / 2).

tl;dr

Airlines who flew out of Heathrow LHR during 2016 were liable for passenger compensation claims to the tune of $0.25 billion USD ($265,998,150.00 USD). The compensation liability for all airports considered (574) is 3 billion USD ($3,001,339,552.25 USD).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

We Are Now Taking Off From 22000 Feet

It is very likely you’re within 50km of an airport — even if it’s a very small one.

Passenger volumes continue to rise year-on-year, and newer, larger airports are needed to keep up with demand. My local major airport, London Heathrow (LHR), claims to operate at 98% capacity.

London alone has 5 major airports, and many fast growing commercial ones such as London Southend (SEN). Although if it’s actually in London is debatable!

With a recent inquisitiveness about airports, I began questioning. How many airports are out there? Where are they? Here are some interesting statistics.

Methodology

OurAirports maintain a comprehensive document of airports around the world. It currently lists over 46000 airports and includes information such as location, elevation, runways, and identification codes. This data was used to perform all analysis.

Analysis

Airports by country

Rank by airport count country count_airports
1 United States 21487
2 Brazil 3833
3 Canada 2434
4 Australia 1879
5 Russia 919
6 France 789
7 Argentina 710
8 Colombia 701
9 Germany 663
10 Venezuela 592

Full list.

Perhaps to be expected the US has the most airports, but I did not expect it to be almost 18,000 more than the second placed country, Brazil. Although most of the airports in the US are classified a small (private) airports, 21.5k airports is still a huge number!

Worlds highest / lowest airports

elevation_rank type name country elevation_ft elevation_mt
1 heliport Siachen Glacier AFS Airport India 22000 6,706
2 small_airport Daulat Beg Oldi Advanced Landing Ground India 16200 4,938
3 small_airport Laguna Choclococha Airport Peru 14965 4,561
4 small_airport Fausa Airport Peru 14809 4,514
5 small_airport San Rafael Airport Peru 14422 4,396
46231 small_airport Brawley Municipal Airport United States -128 -39
46232 small_airport Ein Yahav Airfield Israel -164 -50
46233 small_airport Cliff Hatfield Memorial Airport United States -182 -55
46234 small_airport Furnace Creek Airport United States -210 -64
46235 medium_airport Bar Yehuda Airfield Israel -1266 -386

Full list.

To give this some perspective, Mount Everest stands at 8848 meters — just 2000 meters higher than Siachen Glacier AFS Airport, India. In fact, this airport (heliport) would rank just outside the top 100 highest mountains. Sadly, it only serves a military purpose, but all credit to the pilots flying at that elevation! The highest large airport is Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Peru at 3310 meters above sea level.

At the other end of the scale, Bar Yehuda Airfield in Israel lies 386 meters below sea level. The English Channel is only 120m deep.

Worlds longest runways

runway length rank type name country length_ft length_mt surface
1 seaplane_base Pontiac Airpark Water Aerodrome Canada 120,000 36,576 water
2 seaplane_base Gunflint Seaplane Base United States 30,000 9,144 water
3 seaplane_base Libby Camps Seaplane Base United States 26,000 7,925 water
4 seaplane_base Brookville Reservoir Seaplane Base United States 25,000 7,620 water
5 seaplane_base Long Lake Seaplane Base United States 25,000 7,620 water
6 seaplane_base Conchas Lake Seaplane Base United States 21,120 6,427 water
7 medium_airport Qamdo Bangda Airport China, People’s Republic of 18,045 5,500 concrete
8 seaplane_base Goddard Seadrome Seaplane Base United States 17,000 5,182 water
9 medium_airport Ulyanovsk East Airport Russia 16,404 5,000 concrete
10 medium_airport Pierre Van Ryneveld Airport South Africa 16,076 4,900 asphalt

Full list.

No that’s not a typo, Pontiac Airpark Water Aerodrome has a runway that’s 36.5 km long (it is water runway for seaplanes). The longest traditional runway is at Qamdo Bangda Airport in China at 5.5km. The runway needs to be so long because of the elevation of the airport (4333m). When the air is thinner (at altitude) it takes longer for a plane to take-off and land.

The runway at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba (in the Caribbean) runs a mere 396m, making it the world’s shortest commercial runways (excluding heliports).

Improvements

I would be very interested in analysing how much traffic some of the runways with notable characteristics receive and any associated accident information, especially those with a high elevation.

tl;dr

The United States has 21.4k airports. That’s almost 18k more than any other country.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Concorde Would Still Beat Hyperloop

High-speed trains now compete with airlines for short-haul routes.

The fastest high-speed train in operation is limited by a maximum speed of 431 km/h, although trains have reached speeds of 603 km/h in testing.

Hyperloop is a proposed new mode of passenger and freight transportation that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at airline speeds. Top speeds of 1200 km/h have been touted. To put that in perspective a Boeing 777-200-LR, one of the fastest commercial jets in operation has a maximum operation speed of 1037 km/h.

What could a world with interconnected Hyperloop routes look like?

Methodology

Given Hyperloop is still in development phase, with some limited testing completed, much of this post takes into account assumptions about what is possible (speeds, geography, engineering limitations etc).

Many of the routes I’ve considered are already in operation — served either by plane or train. Distances for these routes via Hyperloop are very rough given I have not considered geography in any detail. That said, because of the physics involved Hyperloop needs a very straight track.

The aim of this post is to provide a basic overview of what could be made possible with Hyperloop.

Analysis

Maximum operating speeds

Max operating speed by mode of transport

Download chart.

The fastest of each mode of transport currently in operation are considered: Hyperloop, Boeing 777-200LR (plane), Shanghai Maglev (train).

Hyperloop is most similar to the existing train networks. The difference between current high-speed trains and Hyperloop is massive (1200 km/h vs. 431 km/h — almost 3 times faster.).

Average Speeds for Popular Air / Rail Routes

Plane vs train vs Hyperloop

Download chart.

For the above 5 routes, all of which show actual times for plane and train journeys, the train is always the slowest (almost twice as slow as a plane for most routes).

Travelling by plane would be the second quickest option, with Hyperloop coming a clear first for all routes (in some cases Hyperloop is almost 4 times quicker on some routes — Paris to Lyon, and twice as quick as taking the plane on others).

It is important to note these figures only consider time spent moving, excluding check-in time, etc.

There are a number of cities currently considering implementing Hyperloop. LA to San Francisco, Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Helsinki to Stockholm, etc. Most of these routes are well below 1000km, as are the routes considered above with the exception of Beijing to Shanghai at just over 1000km apart. At an estimated $19.1 million USD per kilometre, cost is the biggest inhibiting factor to a longer Hyperloop routes at present.

Did you know? It will cost an estimated $2.65 billion USD ($19.1MM USD x 139km) to build a Hyperloop route between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Hyperloop potential

Concorde once circumnavigated the globe in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, starting and ending its journey in New York, via Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Guam, Honolulu, Acapulco, to refuel and then back to New York JFK (a total of 36,787.6 km).

Assuming Hyperloop took the same journey at its average estimated speed of 970 km/h (which unlike a plane would not need to account for refuelling time), it would take almost 38 hours (36787.6 km/970 km/h). That’s 5 hours slower than Concorde.

Hyperloop round the world

Full map.

The circumference of Earth at the equator is about 24,874 miles (40,030 km), but from pole-to-pole — the meridional circumference — Earth is only 24,860 miles (40,008 km) around. This shape, caused by the flattening at the poles, is called an oblate spheroid. A “true” round-the-world journey circling the equator would take over 41.3 hours (40030 km /970 km/h) at a cost to build of $764.6 billion USD (40030 km * $19.1 million USD per km).

Improvements

As discussed, many of these calculations are very rough. When Hyperloop gets closer to a production version where better estimates are available the calculations used can be improved.

tl;dr

Concorde once circumnavigated the globe in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, the same route on Hyperloop would take almost 38 hours.

Get the Data

 

There Is Almost 2 Trillion USD of Planes in Our Skies

$1,911,494,699,999 USD to be exact.

I don’t need to tell you jet planes are expensive. Very expensive. Spoiler alert: you (probably) can’t afford one.

That said, commercial airliners are abundant as a quick look on Flightradar24 will confirm.

At hundreds-of-millions a piece; what is the value of the current fleet of commercial airliners in the sky?

Methodology

I used the average cost of a commercial jet model as supplied by the manufacturers who dominate the commercial market, Airbus and Boeing.

Fleet data was obtained from AirFleets for the SkyTrax top 100 airlines (2015).

Total price values were calculated using average cost of model and most popular model variation in operation. For example, count of the more popular A350-800 was used over the A350-1000 variant.

Aircraft data (seat numbers) was obtained from Wikipedia.

Analysis

Most expensive planes

Average-cost-of-airplane-by-family1

Download chart.

Unsurprisingly the massive Airbus A380 is the most expensive commercial airliner. All of the top 10 planes by price are worth more than $300 million USD each.

Most expensive cost per seat

Aircraft-cost-per-seat-USD-millions2

Download chart.

The A380 represents represents a high cost efficiency per seat (rank 15th @ 0.82$ million USD / seat).

The A350-1000, 777-9, and 777-200LR all have per seat values of over $1 million USD (cost / number of seats). This is a rough calculation assuming the maximum number of seats are installed (in many cases this does not happen).

Total value of planes by type

Total-value-of-commercial-airliners

Download chart.

Did you know? The cost of planes for all of SkyTraxs top 100 airlines (new) is $1,911,494,699,999 USD. 

The Boeing 777 ($340 million / each), 1214 in operation , have a cumulative new value of $412,274,400,000 USD (412 USD billion).

The cheaper 737s ($110 million / each), of which there are 3471 planes in the sky (25% of all commercial aircraft) (almost 3x the 777), have a total combined value of $381,810,000,000 USD (382 USD billion). Southwest operates 710 737s. Bought new these would cost $78,100,000,000 USD (78 USD billion).

Boeing versus Airbus

Boeing Airbus total value

Download chart.

Although Airbus offers the most expensive plane for sale (the A380 @ $432 million USD), the new cost of all Boeing planes in the sky is much higher than Airbus.

There are over $1 trillion USD of planes flying from Boeing (one trillion sixty-eight billion seven hundred thirty-one million seven hundred thousand), whilst Airbus has just $800 billion USD (eight hundred forty-two billion seven hundred sixty-three million).

Improvements

All the calculations and variable values (plane cost, seats on aircraft, ticket cost, etc) are nowhere near accurate and should only be taken as a generalisation.

Should true data be obtainable, values for these variables would greatly improve the accuracy of all data and calculations used in this post.

tl;dr

The cost of planes for all of SkyTraxs top 100 airline (new) is $1,911,494,699,999 USD. 

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Size Matters: How Airline Size Affects Customer Satisfaction

When I think of many large corporations I think of commodity products rather than quality. Most airlines these days are large corporations – or part of a group of airlines – with thousands of staff around the world.

As a measure of size, it is the older carriers that have the largest fleets of aircraft (1. American, 2. Delta, 3. United).

Does the size of an airline affect brand image, or more importantly, passenger satisfaction?

Methodology

Skytrax is arguably the most well know measure of airline rankings. Released every year since 2012, I am using the latest 2016 version. In their own words the Skytrax ranking is a:  “Quality analysis across hundreds of categories for both airline product and service delivery, covering the Onboard and home-base Airport environments.”

Similarly Airhelp produces their own AirHelp Score that ranks airlines on three measures: quality and service, on-time performance, and the ease of making a claim (for delayed flights, etc).

Using data from Airfleets (April 2016) I was able to measure an airline by size of its fleet. My assumption is that airlines with larger fleets will have the more staff.

I did consider using market capitalisation as a measure of size but due to differences in company dynamics (airline groups, traded on different markets / volumes, etc) I decided against doing so.

Results

Airlines with most aircraft

Count of aircraft top 10 by fleet size

Download chart.

The top 4 airlines by fleet size are all based in the US. They are also considerably larger than the next biggest airline, China Southern (who operate 200 fewer planes).

Airline Fleet Rank (04/16) Skytrax rank 2016 AirHelp Score rank (Autumn 16)
American Airlines 1 77 28
Delta Air Lines 2 35 31
United Airlines 3 68 16
Southwest Airlines 4 66 #N/A
China Southern Airlines 5 32 66
China Eastern Airlines 6 79 74
Air China 7 87 77
Turkish Airlines 8 7 60
Lufthansa 8 10 11
British Airways 10 26 12

Full list.

Only one of the top 10 airlines by fleet size is in the Skytrax top 10, Turkish (7th). None of the 10 airlines with the largest fleets make the AirHelp Score top 10.

Histogram of airline fleet size

Download chart.

The top 10 airlines by fleet size are considerably larger than the competition. Most airlines (83/100) operate less than 200 planes, 53 operate fewer than 100.

Skytrax 2016 Top 10

Skytrax ranking 2016 - Top 10 changes since 2012

Download chart.

Download the full Skytrax Top 100 ranking.

Qatar has held either the 1st or 2nd spot in the Skytrax ranking since 2012 (currently ranked 2nd). Emirates, currently ranked 1st, has seen a more turbulent rise to the top (placed 8th in 2012, 4th in 2014, and 5th in 2015).

Airline Fleet Rank (04/16) Skytrax rank 2016 AirHelp Score rank (Autumn 16)
Emirates 11 1 12
Qatar Airways 18 2 1
Singapore Airlines 40 3 4
Cathay Pacific Airways 31 4 7
ANA All Nippon Airways 16 5 #N/A
Etihad Airways 34 6 #N/A
Turkish Airlines 8 7 60
EVA Air 57 8 #N/A
Qantas Airways 38 9 #N/A
Lufthansa 8 10 11

Full list.

5 of the top 10 Skytrax ranked airlines are ranked 30th and below for fleet size. This suggests smaller airlines offer better service. Conversely, for the airlines where an AirHelp Score exists many rank fairly highly. The anomaly being Turkish Airlines who have the 6th largest fleet size, a Skytrax rank of 7th, but a very poor AirHelp Score ranked 60th.

AirHelp Score Autumn 2016 Top 10

Airscore ranking 2016 Top 10 changes

Download chart.

Download the full AirHelp Score ranking.

Qatar ranks perfectly in 1st for all periods of the AirHelp Score ranking, beating its Skytrax rankings. Virgin Atlantic has seen the best improvement of AirHelp Score rank moving from 38th – 6th position in just one year!

Airline Fleet Rank (04/16) Skytrax rank 2016 AirHelp Score rank (Autumn 16)
Qatar Airways 18 2 1
Austrian 54 19 2
Air Dolomiti #N/A #N/A 2
Singapore Airlines 40 3 4
KLM 23 24 5
Virgin Atlantic 76 28 6
Cathay Pacific Airways 31 4 7
Air Canada 15 31 7
Air Baltic #N/A #N/A 7
Finnair 70 27 10

Full list.

Again, most of the airlines in the AirHelp Score top 10 are smaller airlines (8 are ranked 30th and below by fleet size). That said, many of these airlines are brand names in the industry.

Improvements

Skytrax and Airhelp rankings are good baselines to understand customer satisfaction, however, only give and aggregated of customer satisfaction. Delays, number of flights, food quality are raw metrics that will give a better view of where airlines perform best.

tl;dr

Larger airlines (by fleet size) tend to offer worse service than their smaller counterparts.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.