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.

Airlines Are Undercharging You For Fuel

Taxes, duty, surcharges… passenger facility charges.

Airline tickets are a lot more than just a standard fare. For most consumers the fare breakdown is a non-issue because the total fare is shown clearly at time of purchase (you may never even see the fare breakdown).

Some including taxes imposed by governments are fixed. Even if the airline thinks they’re unreasonable they still have to pay.

Items like Fuel Surcharge are less defined as they are set by individual airlines; but how closely do they correlate to actual fuel cost for the journey?

Methodology

I recently flew from London to Qatar and was charged a Fuel Surcharge.

Using data about plane efficiency found on Wikipedia and fuel costs from IATA (Oct 2016 @ 1.42 USD / gal) I was able to estimate the amount of fuel used for the journey, the estimated total cost of fuel, and how it differed from the Fuel Surcharge charged.

Because airlines rarely share actual passenger numbers my calculations assume passenger load factor (percentage of seat capacity utilised) = 100% (even though aircraft rarely operate at 100% capacity). For example, the PLF for British Airways in 2014 was about 81% (although some of their popular routes operate at 99%!).

It is also worth noting, thousands of unique factors affect actual fuel economy: payload weight, weather conditions, delays, required additional fuel for safety regulations, etc that I could not account for.

Results

Fuel Surcharges

Fuel Surcharges are often coded as YQ or YR on tickets. Fuel surcharges were introduced in the early to mid-2000s when the price of oil soared.

Many people incorrectly confuse the Fuel Surcharge as the actual fuel cost.

“A fuel surcharge is a way of adjusting the amount paid to move freight [persons] by taking into account significant variation in fuel prices, compared to historical levels. It is a method for sharing or transferring risk.”
Supply Chain 24/7

A Fuel Surcharge is designed to cover the varying fuel cost of flying you to your destination, but it is not the actual fuel cost.

If you think about this more deeply, charging an actual fuel cost would be impossible due to fluctuations in fuel price paid by the airline. Aircraft fuel has fallen by over 60% in the last two years alone. But are airlines passing these savings onto consumers?

Some sources claim Fuel Surcharges are “not for fuel any more“, suggesting they account for additional costs and operating margins. Other sources also claim airline Fuel Surcharges have no direct relationship to fuel cost.

Admission: This makes it almost impossible to calculate wether airlines are overcharging for fuel (because we don’t know what parts of the fare breakdown account for it). Though bear with me. Lets hypothesises that Fuel Surcharge has some relationship to fuel cost.

jet-fuel-price-2011-2015-travelstats1

Airline Opex

Airline Opex 2008

Download chart.

In 2008 fuel accounted for the third largest share of airline operating expenses at 32.3% for all major airlines — in 2001 it was only 13.6%! More recent data would suggest fuel now accounts for 27.6% of an airlines operating expenditure.

Actual Fuel Cost

My flights:

Route Aircraft Miles
LHR – DOH Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner 3,259
DOH – BKK Airbus A380-800 3,288
BKK – DOH Airbus A380-800 3,288
DOH – BKK Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner 3,259

Full table.

I was charged $230.68 USD in Fuel Surcharges for the round-trip, or $115.34 USD one-way (the total for the ticket was $671 USD, fuel surcharge is 29% of total cost).

To obtain the additional data required to estimate actual fuel costs I used:

  • Wikipedia: average fuel efficiency for both these aircrafts, and many more.
  • IATA: jet fuel costs.

Did you know: The Airbus A380’s fuel tank has a capacity of 320,000 litres (84,500 US Gal) of jet fuel — most of which is stored in the wings! In comparison, my old car had a 50L (13 US Gal) tank. 

The estimated actual fuel costs for my journey:

US Gal Needed p/Pax US Gal Needed Total
Boeing 787-8 (one-way) 37.03 8,814.11
Airbus A380 (one-way) 45.67 23,975.00
One-way 82.70 32,789.11
Round-trip 165.40 65,578.23

Fuel Hedging

Fuel surcharges introduced when oil prices were high have remained in place because most airlines hedged their fuel purchases.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reckons the final hedges which locked airlines into higher than market oil prices will unwind by mid-2016, increasing the potential for cheaper airfare towards the end of the year.

Overcharging for fuel

Per Pax Actual and Per Pax Fuel Surcharge

Download chart.

My ticket was booked within 3 weeks of outbound travel (7 weeks of return travel). Given a Fuel Surcharge “takes into account significant variation in fuel prices”, I did expect the estimated actual fuel cost to vary slightly given the current market conditions.

Assuming Fuel Surcharge = fuel cost, calculations based on the current jet fuel price (Oct 2016) ($1.42 / US Gal), I am being undercharged for fuel by $3.04 USD ($230.68 fuel surcharge -$233.72 actual fuel cost).

Remember this assumes a 100% passenger load factor, so it is very likely the airline is receiving less in total in Fuel Surcharges (e.g 80% load factor would equal 20% drop in total Fuel Surcharge). In such a case, it means I am actually being undercharged by an even greater amount.

As discussed, many people believe a Fuel Surcharge != fuel cost. However, it is interesting to note the difference between the two is almost 0. Whilst this is not very solid proof of a correlation, it would definitely indicate one.

So lets stick with the assumption that Fuel Surcharge = fuel cost. If the airline hedged at the 5 Year high in 2011 ($3.27 / US Gal) I would actually be underpaying by a whopping $307.52 USD ($230.68 -$538.20). Assuming the planes are operating at full capacity, that would be a total fuel underpayment for the journey of around $30,000 USD!

To add some balance, assuming the airline purchased fuel at the average price of these two values ($2.35 / US Gal – 2014 prices) I am underpaying $156.10 USD for my fuel surcharge ($230.68 – $386.78).

Improvements

Instead of using fuel surcharge for comparison, I could use reported airline opex figures for fuel expenditure against ticket cost.

tl;dr

Your airline is probably undercharging you for fuel based on current jet fuel prices (latest @ $1.36 – Nov 2016) — assuming fuel surcharge = fuel cost. 

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

26 Percent Of All Commercial Airliners are Boeing 737s

New planes like A380s, 787s, or if you’re really lucky, an A350, are great to fly on.

If you fly regularly, switching between old and new planes can make the differences in comfort seem even more acute. It’s not surprising frequent travellers often book flights based on planes serving the route.

But what planes dominate the sky? And how old are they?

Methodology

I began by analysing airlines from Skytrax top 100 airlines 2015.

Using these 100 airlines, I then scraped data from Airfleets that documents every plane flown by each airline (April 2016).

Results

Aircraft flown by airlines

count of aircraft by airline top 10

Download chart.

New planes are expensive. A new 787-8 costs between $157-167MM USD. Owning or leasing a plane is a significant cost on any balance sheet.

Unsurprisingly, older airlines typically have larger fleets.

Did you know? The airlines with the most planes in their fleet are all American: 3. United Airlines (717), 2. Delta Airline (833), 1. American Airline (943).

Most common manufacturers

count of aircraft by manufacturer

Download chart.

Of the planes operated by the Skytrax top 100 airlines (12841), 5872 (45.73%) are built by Airbus and 5880 (45.78%) by Boeing – a difference of just 8 planes!

The other manufacturers have about an 8% share of the market (1089) — Embraer is the third largest manufacture of planes in operation (418 / 3.26%).

Aircraft in operation

age since aircraft introduced vs count in operation top 10

Download chart.

Rank by count Model Mfg Count of model Age since introduction (years) Percentage of total
1 737 Boeing 3337 34.45 25.99%
2 320 Airbus 2498 20.02 19.45%
3 777 Boeing 1131 15.62 8.81%
4 330 Airbus 1000 15.91 7.79%
5 321 Airbus 936 20.02 7.29%
6 319 Airbus 933 20.02 7.27%
7 170 – 195 Embraer 412 8.65 3.21%
8 767 Boeing 369 24.71 2.87%
9 757 Boeing 330 23.80 2.57%
10 747 Boeing 309 33.05 2.41%

Full ranking.

The most common models in operation are the Airbus 320 (19.5% / 2498 planes flying) and Boeing 737 (26% / 3337). They were first introduced 20 and 34 years ago respectively.

The Boeing 747 has long been the workhorse of the commercial airline industry (1543 orders, 1520 delivered). It is still commonly used by airlines (309 in operation / 2.41% market share) and some of these planes are over 20 years old (the 747-100 was first introduced in 1970, although none of these are still in service). Boeing has introduced newer iterations of the aircraft over the years, the most recent of which was the 747-8 in 2011 (although the model has received few orders).

Compare that to Boeing’s newer 787 that has started to see an uptake in orders. The planes first commercial flight was in 2011 operated by ANA. That makes it just over 3 years old. That said, although the plane might have better entertainment systems and a smoother ride (boasting “Smoother Ride Technology”), comfort in economy class on the 787 has received a significant amount of bad press.

Did you know? The most common models of planes in operation are: 3. Airbus A330 (7.79% market share / 1000 planes flying), 2. Airbus 320 (19.5% / 2498), 1. Boeing 737 (26% / 3337).

Airline fleets

The youngest plane in operation, the A350, is the only aircraft less then 1 year old. There are just 18 of these planes currently flying commercially. Finnair has 4, Qatar Airways 8, TAM Airline 2, and Vietnam Airlines 4. Only the BEA Avro RJ100 (12), Airbus A310 (9), and Embraer 135 – 145 (6) are less common — and these are all planes approaching retirement.

Did you know? All of Southwest Airlines fleet is made up of Boeing 737s — that’s 710 planes. Only American Airlines (830 total / 269 are 737s) and United Airlines (717 / 311) have bigger fleets.

Full matrix.

Improvements

Instead of just comparing aircraft models, it would be useful to consider model variations (i.e Boeing 747-400 vs. 747-8). This way the age of fleet could be better considered.

tl;dr

The most common aircraft model in operation is the Boeing 737 (26% market share / 3337 planes) and was first introduced in 1968.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

It’s Cheaper To Take An Uber To The Airport, And Back

Uber has been fighting continuing battles with major cities and their traditional licensed cab drivers for years now. In some cities this has resulted in legal rulings banning Uber drivers from operating completely.

However it’s not just cities taking aim at the taxi app. Airports are also drawing battle lines with the company in an effort to protect revenues.

The ease of catching a cab is often paramount for weary travellers, but many are still very price-sensitive even after the longest of flights.

But are the costs of Uber rides on fiercely competitive (and regulated) airport journeys cheaper then traditional taxis (as they are in cities)?

Methodology

I was able to calculate fares for Uber journey costs from airports on their website (UK & US) (April 2016).

These could then be compared with traditional taxi fare data available from TfL (UK) and Taxi Fare Finder (UK & US) (April 2016).

The Black Taxi

The Black Taxi an icon of London. In recent years Black Taxi drivers have been losing market share of passengers travelling overground to minicabs (often operated by taxi apps, like Uber). The situation is so bad, TfL (who operate Black Cabs), are struggling to recruit new Black Cab drivers.

Queue a fierce fight between TfL and Uber.

One that almost saw Uber being banned from the British capital altogether in 2015 but for a small technicality about wether the app constituted a taximeter. But technicalities aside; why are consumers switching to taxi apps?

Analysis

Uber Services

Uber vs Black Taxi Journey Costs in London

Download chart.

Service Ave Fare (1 mile) GBP Ave Fare (2 mi) GBP Ave Fare (4 mi) GBP Ave Fare (6 mi) GBP
UberX 5.18 7.25 10.95 15.10
UberX (1.9x surge) 9.83 13.78 20.81 28.69
UberX (2.5x surge) 12.94 18.13 27.38 37.75
UberEXEC 9.25 13.30 20.50 28.60
UberLUX 13.78 20.35 31.85 45.00
UberXL 10.53 13.45 18.85 24.70
Black Taxi (Mon-fri (06:00-20:00)) 7.20 11.20 18.50 26.00
Black Cab (Mon-fri (20:00-22:00), Sat-sun (06:00-22:00)) 7.30 11.50 19.00 30.00

Full table.

UberX rides are generally cheaper than traditional Black Cabs, unless the dreaded surge pricing is in effect.

For example, the more expensive Black Taxi Fare would cost £7.30 GBP to go 1 mile. An UberX would cost only £5.18 GBP. However, during periods of high demand where 1.9x and 2.5x surge pricing is in effect the same journey would cost you £9.83 GBP and £12.94 GBP respectively through Uber — potentially well over twice the price of a Black Taxi.

Uber Services To / From London airports

Registered taxis in London (Hackney Carriages, not necessarily Black Taxis) have strictly regulated fares from its many airport into the city.

Uber vs Taxi cost from airport to Paddington Station, London

Download chart.

London Heathrow (T5) – Paddington St GBP (ave) Gatwick South — Paddington St GBP (ave) Stansted – Paddington St GBP (ave) Luton- Paddington St GBP (ave) City- Paddington St GBP (ave)
uberX 37.00 96.00 74.50 46.50 28.50
uberX (1.9x surge) 55.50 144.00 111.75 69.75 42.75
uberX (2.5x surge) 92.50 240.00 186.25 116.25 71.25
uberXL 56.00 149.50 114.00 89.50 40.00
UberEXEC 71.00 135.50 104.50 82.50 55.00
UberLUX 109.50 283.50 221.50 171.00 88.50
Taxi (Mon-fri (06:00-20:00)) 67.40 125.60 78.80 59.90 40.60

Full table.

Many registered taxis and private hire cars pay surcharges to airports (often passed on to passengers directly). Uber drivers are also liable for such charges.

Even so, UberX rides are considerably cheaper from all London airports — almost £50 GBP cheaper from Gatwick South Terminal to Paddington Station. Only recently did Uber scrap flat fees from London airports which could have potentially made these journeys even cheaper.

Registered taxis sit somewhere between UberX and UberXL services, and are the second cheapest option when compared to the other services Uber offers.

Uber To / From US airports

Lets change colours to the bright yellow of the second most iconic taxi, the New York City Cab (and the less iconic taxis of San Francisco and Chicago). And yes, both these cities have had their disagreements (like the London Black Cabs), to put it lightly, with Uber.

Uber vs Taxi cost from US airport to major landmark

Download chart.

JFK – Grand Central (ave) USD SFO – Market St (low) USD ORD – Chicago Union (ave) USD
uberX 59.00 25.00 33.00
uberXL 88.50 37.00 56.50
UberBLACK 116.50 68.00 88.00
UberSUV 145.50 84.00 111.50
Taxi (Mon-fri (06:00-20:00)) 64.73 64.69 52.45

Full table.

Like London, the UberX service comes out much cheaper than choosing a taxi in all cities. In San Francisco and New York the fares are staggeringly cheaper. In New York UberX services are about $20 USD cheaper, and in San Francisco almost $40 cheaper!

Improvements

Uber operates in 81 countries (Oct 2016). In the US and UK cities considered, UberX is cheaper than traditional taxis to and from airports. I would be interested to learn if the same was true in the 79 other countries.

tl;dr

UberX services from airports are cheaper than registered taxis from airports.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Checked Bag Prices On Budget Carriers Are Too Cheap

Budget travellers have come to expect the added costs associated with checked bag prices — and are likely to have developed the ability to pack one-weeks worth of clothes into a single carry-on bag.

Though with cabin baggage allowances regularly being reduced, it’s getting harder. Perhaps so-much-so you start wondering how much it would cost to ship some items by courier to your destination.

The concept is nothing new. Over the past few years a number of companies have set out to do just this. Airlines have also entered the space.

How do budget airlines compare with shipping your bag with a courier?

Methodology

Checked bagged costs on European budget carriers were obtained via TravelSupermarket (sourced in March 2016). 16 different products from 11 budget airlines were reported (some airlines offer different price bands based on checked bag weight).

Checked baggage minimum and maximum charges at booking Mar 2016

Download chart.

Europe’s budget airlines are imposing ever more complex prices for placing a bag in the hold. Where flat fees were once the norm, carriers now charge by an array of variables including time of year. Depending on when you fly, Norwegian has the cheapest possible checked bag cost per flight (£7 GBP / 20kg) , whilst Ryanair has most expensive (£45 GBP / 20kg) — that’s £90 GBP for a round-trip!

Given this analysis considers European budget airlines I then drew up a list of European cities to use as destinations for comparison. Cities were selected based on popularity and wether or not they were served by at least one of the budget airlines I collected prices for.

Full list.

Using MyParcelDelivery I then calculated the cost of shipping a suitcase of dimensions 76cm x 48cm x 29cm (a “large” case) with shipping weights of 15kg, 20kg and 25kg on 1, 2 and 3-5 day services from London, UK to this list of destinations.

Results

1 day services from London

Cost to ship 20kg cheapest hold courier 1 day March 2016

Download chart.

Courier companies are arguably more price sensitive to the distance your bag travels — they are not receiving additional revenue for carrying passengers.

That said, couriering a bag from London to the Netherlands (£80.17 GBP / 378.89km) is slightly more expensive than shipping it to Ireland (£79.68 GBP / 589.28km), a country further away by straight-line distance to each countries central point (210.39km).

Bulgaria or Romania, are the most expensive destinations to courier a 20kg bag from London. Using UPS International Express Saver service (1 day) this would cost you £147.30 GBP. Checking this bag at the most expensive Ryanair price would only cost you £45 GBP — a difference of £102.30 GBP.

Out of the 21 courier routes researched, only 5 cost less than £140 GBP to courier a bag in 1 day.

Therefore, airlines could be missing a significant amount of potential revenue by checking your bag instead of using the space to take time-sensitive cargo — you’re actually getting a great deal in comparison.

2 day services from London

Cost to ship 20kg cheapest hold courier 2 day

Download chart.

2 day services using MPD International Export are slightly cheaper than 1 day services as you would expect. However, they are still all more expensive than even the highest price for checking a bag on a budget airline (Ryanair / £45 GPB).

Croatia is the most expensive destination for 2 day services at £135 GBP, only £10 GBP cheaper then a 1 day service (£145.81 GBP).

This time the Netherlands is the cheapest destination to ship to via courier (£82.19 GBP).

Strangely, to ship to Ireland via courier on 2 day services from London will cost £108.47 GBP — more expensive than most central European countries.

3-5 day services from London

Cost to ship 20kg cheapest hold courier 3-5 day

Download chart.

3-5 day courier services are the only ones that compete on price with checking a bag.

Even so, the cheapest checked bag prices on most budget airlines (7) are still lower than the 25 courier routes researched.

Rank Service 3-5 cost courier / checked airline 20kg cheapest GBP
1 Norwegian (20kg) 7.00
2 Jet2 (22kg) 11.00
3 Germanwings (20kg) 11.60
4 Wizzair (23kg) 12.00
4 Aer Lingus EU (20kg) 12.00
6 easyJet (20kg) 13.00
7 Monarch (20kg) 15.00
8 London-France 16.79
9 London-Austria 17.40
10 London-Belgium 17.99
11 Flybe (20kg) 19.00
12 London-Denmark 19.19
12 London-Germany 19.19
12 London-Ireland 19.19
15 London-Poland 20.39
16 London-Netherlands 21.59
16 London-Portugal 21.59
16 London-Spain 21.59
19 Thomson (20kg) 22.00
19 Thomas Cook (20kg) 22.00
21 London-Sweden 22.20
22 London-Hungary 23.99
23 Ryanair (20kg) 25.00
24 London-Switzerland 30.76
25 London-Norway 31.47
26 London-Finland 38.39
27 London-Estonia 43.19
27 London-Latvia 43.19
27 London-Lithuania 43.19
30 London-Croatia 44.27
31 London-Romania 45.49
32 London-Greece 46.79
33 London-Bulgaria 52.79
34 London-Malta 103.19
35 London-Italy 142.86
36 London-Czech Republic 145.81

Full list.

All services

Average cost by service ave courier ave hold

Download chart.

Many argue that checked bag prices are too rigid. On Easyjet you have to pay for a 20kg bag (minimum price £13 GBP), even if your bag weighs less. Though in Europe all courier services I analysed also charged a flat fee to ship 15 – 20 kg from London. Therefore, you won’t make any savings by choosing a courier if your bag weighs slightly less than the max allowance either.

Improvements

The aforementioned door-to-door luggage services offered by some premium and long-haul airlines would not only give both a wider geographic view, but also a comparison between budget and premium airline charges.

tl;dr

  • Checked bag prices are much cheaper than courier companies one or two day shipping services.
  • If you’re prepared to ship your luggage 3-5 days in advance it might be cheaper to use a courier, but most budget airlines will still be cheaper!

Acknowledgements

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