A New Record: Guns Caught at US Airport Security Checkpoints

Belt. Off.

Shoes. Off.

Phone out of pocket. Yes.

Laptop and iPad in separate trays. Done.

Guns. Ermmmm…

Methodology

Travellers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA.

Even if a traveller has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an aeroplane.

However, travellers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow a few simple guidelines to transport firearms and ammunition safely.

The data reported in this post covers all guns identified, which includes both those authorised to be carried on-board as well as guns seized.

Results

Guns identified at US airports

Year Nationwide
2008 926
2009 976
2010 1,123
2011 1,320
2012 1,556
2013 1,813
2014 2,212
2015 2,653
2016 3,391
2017 3,957
2018 4,239
2019 4,432

View full table.

Number of Weapons Identified by TSA at US Airports (2008 - 2019)

Transportation Security Administration officers caught more firearms at checkpoints nationwide in 2019, more than ever recorded previously.

In total, 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags or on passengers at checkpoints across the country last year, averaging about 12.1 firearms per day, approximately a 5% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018.

What’s more, eighty-seven percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.

Worst airports

Airport Weapons Identified
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) 323
Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) 217
Denver International (DEN) 140
George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) 138
Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) 132

View full table.

Number of Weapons Identified by TSA at US Airports (2019)

View chart.

Firearms were caught at 278 airport checkpoints in the US.

The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2019 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 323; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 217; Denver International with 140; George Bush Intercontinental with 138; and Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 132.

Improvements

As noted, there is no distinction between guns authorised to be carried on-board and guns carried illegally. Being able to extrapolate how many guns were seized would add a different perspective to the analysis.

tl;dr

4432 guns were identified at US airports security checkpoints in 2019 (compared to just 926 in 2008).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Great TSA Robbery

Waiting at a baggage carousel is never enjoyable.

You’ve stepped off the plane, cleared security, and then, the 300 plus people who have just disembarked the plane rush to get as close to where the bags enter the carousel with latecomers forced to pack tightly around its perimeter.

If you’re lucky, or have paid for the privilege, your bag will arrive first. If you’re unlucky, me, you’ll be waiting until the very end.

If you’re really unlucky, your bag won’t arrive at all, and you’ll spend the next hour or two waiting at the baggage information desk to find out what to do next.

In many cases, your bag just wasn’t loaded on your flight, and in such cases the bag will be carried on the next flight.

Though even with highly computerised baggage processes, bags do still inevitably go missing — from hand baggage at security checkpoints to checked luggage at the destination.

But why?

Methodology

The Transport Security Administration (TSA) are responsible for the security of the travelling public in the United States.

This includes everything from checking passengers are not carrying prohibited items into the cabin through to checking bags going into the hold.

The TSA periodically publish claims made against them during a screening process of persons or passenger’s property due to an injury, loss, or damage.

The latest in Excel format is for 2015, and is the version used in this post (I guess it takes them a long time to process and publish claims, as you’ll see even claims from 2015 are still showing as open…)

Results

Overview of claims

Question Answer
Total claims 8667
Total open claims 2066
Total closed claims 3027
Value of all closed claims USD 611,137.05
Mean average payout USD 201.90
Highest claim USD 5,403.46
Lowest claim USD 2.00
Total rejected claims 3574
Most claimed for category Passenger Property Loss (4551)
Most claimed for item type Baggage/Cases/Purses
Most claimed for site Checked baggage (6261)
Most claimed for airport John F. Kennedy International (523)

Full table.

Over $611K USD has been paid out representing just over 3000 claims. 3500 we’re rejected. 200 claims remain open (outcome undecided) for the year 2015.

JFK (New York), the 6th busiest US airport (61 million pax/yr), is the airport that received the most claims from passengers.

Months with most claims

Count of TSA Claims vs Month (2015)

Download chart.

Unsurprisingly the busy summer months (July and August), where passenger traffic is generally at its highest level, saw the most claims.

Most common items stolen

Item Category Count of claims
Baggage/Cases/Purses 1004
Computer & Accessories 736
Clothing 723
663
Other 570
Personal Electronics 561
Jewelry & Watches 509
Travel Accessories 454
Personal Accessories 347
Cosmetics & Grooming 310

Full table.

Computer & accessories, after suitcases and purses, are the items that go missing the most.

Worst airports

Airport Code Airport Name Count of claims (all, inc pending) Value of paid claims USD
JFK John F. Kennedy International 523 50635.31
LAX Los Angeles International Airport 495 28864.61
MCO Orlando International Airport 372 25795.49
ATL Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 362 17725.27
EWR Newark International Airport 312 32630.15
MIA Miami International Airport 306 22801.2
ORD Chicago O’Hare International Airport 261 17446.55
LAS McCarran International 256 9533.35
PHX Phoenix Sky Harbor International 245 22239.19
SEA Seattle-Tacoma International 244 18362.59

Full table.

The TSA at JFK has the highest number of claims made against them (523). Those claims that have been paid out represent $50k total so far.

Improvements

My assumption is many claims go straight to insurance companies and never reach the TSA (I’d love to see a data set covering claims made to insurers). I estimate no more than $1 million will be paid out by the TSA for all claims made in 2015 — significantly lower than the figures I would expect after analysing other data sources.

If the latest data is 2016/2017, there is a significant lag in publishing statistics. I also wonder how much data is actually missing. It would be interesting to see a longer timeseries of data to see changes in the number and types of claims.

tl;dr

Avoid JFK airport in the summer months if you’re travelling with particularly valuable items.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Please Arrive at the Airport 6 Hours Before Your Flight to Clear Security

It has been a little different over the last few months.

Whilst the holiday you’ve been looking forward to since the start of the outbreak might not be going ahead this year, it will come around.

We’ll all be back flying soon. And so will the familiar, often stressful, journey from car to plane.

Wait to check-in. Wait to drop your bags. Wait until the person in front of you at security empties the backpack full of all their electronics (sorry!).

In this period of travel downtime, I decided to take a look at the best and worst performing airports for security waiting times in the UK and US. Perhaps it’ll change my decision on where to fly from once travel restrictions are lifted.

Methodology

Which? asked asked 4,499 passengers to provide an estimated wait time for security on their most recent visit to the airport in their recent annual airport survey (end of 2019). Note: this survey was conducted before any COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

The passenger numbers from each UK airport are sourced from CAA figures published for 2018, the latest full year dataset available at the time of writing. Note, the numbers are reported per airport. I could not find individual terminal data as is reported in the waiting time data. Therefore to perform my analysis I simply divided airport passenger number by number of terminals at the airport. Clearly this is not perfect.

For US airport data, I used data from Upgraded Points, who compiled wait time data directly from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) They collected data from late Spring for every hour at each airport to calculate overall averages.

Results

Mean security wait time at UK airports
Mean security wait time at UK airports

Download chart.

This one’s personal. I used to travel to Belfast monthly. I don’t miss the queues.

Belfast International is by-far-and away the worst performing airport for security waiting times, taking on average over 22 minutes  — over 5 minutes longer than any other airport considered.

Compare that with Southend or Southampton, the latter of which I used to fly to and from Belfast coincidently, where queuing can regularly take less than 5 minutes.

Mean security wait (mins) 2019 vs UK airport size

Mean security wait versus airport size

Download chart.

Gatwick and Heathrow have the lowest average security queue times for large UK airports. They are also the only two airports in the UK whose queue targets are set externally – by the Civil Aviation Authority.

They hit their queue targets, which are to get 99% of flyers through security in less than 10 minutes (Heathrow) and 98% in less than 15 minutes (Gatwick).

For a long time, my personal hypothesis was that smaller airports would have slower security primarily due to the fact they often cater for low-cost airlines, and thus people who might not travel as regularly.

How wrong I was.

In fact, larger airports are about 2 minutes slower. When I think more deeply about this, it makes perfect sense. Larger airport, more passengers, slower security queues.

Mean security wait (mins) 2019 vs UK airport passenger number

Number of passengers to add 1 minute to security wait times at UK airports (2019)

Download chart.

Comparing wait times to the number of passengers travelling gives us a better picture of how efficient security at each airport is.

Every 2.68 million passengers adds about a minute to the security waiting times at Gatwick South terminal, making it the most efficient airport considered. The North terminal at Gatwick doesn’t fare much worse with every 2.69 million passengers adding an extra minute.

Compare that to Bournemouth where every 88,000 passengers adds a minute to the security wait times.

Comparing to US airports

Airport Mean security wait (mins) 2019 Country
Southend 5.2 UK
Southampton 5.2 UK
Exeter 6.9 UK
Cardiff 7.1 UK
London City 7.5 UK
Bournemouth 7.7 UK
Newcastle 8.1 UK
Bristol 8.5 UK
Heathrow Terminal 5 8.6 UK
Gatwick South Terminal 8.6 UK
Gatwick North Terminal 8.7 UK
Salt Lake International Airport 9.1 US
Heathrow Terminal 4 9.4 UK
Heathrow Terminal 2 9.6 UK
Liverpool (John Lennon) 10.1 UK
Heathrow Terminal 3 10.3 UK
Dulles International Airport 10.5 US
Edinburgh 10.5 UK
Boston Logan International Airport 10.6 US
Leeds Bradford 10.6 UK
Birmingham 10.6 UK
Luton 11.7 UK
Glasgow International 12.2 UK
East Midlands 12.7 UK
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport 13 US
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport 13.2 US
Charlotte Douglas International Airport 13.2 US
Philadelphia International Airport 13.3 US
Stanstead 13.7 UK
Denver International Airport 13.8 US
Los Angeles International Airport 14.2 US
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport 14.3 US
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport 14.7 US
Orlando International Airport 14.9 US
Chicago O’Hare International Airport 15 US
San Diego International Airport 15.5 US
Manchester Terminal 2 15.5 UK
Manchester Terminal 3 15.5 UK
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 15.9 US
San Francisco International Airport 16 US
John F. Kennedy International Airport 16 US
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport 16.3 US
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 16.9 US
LaGuardia Airport 17 US
Manchester Terminal 1 17 UK
McCarran International Airport 17.3 US
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport 18.2 US
Miami International Airport 19.6 US
Houston Airport System 19.8 US
Belfast International 22.3 UK
Newark Liberty International Airport 23.1 US

Full table.

The best performing airports based on security wait times are all in the UK. Salt Lake International Airport is the best performing airport in the US (9.1 mins).

The worst airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New York where average security wait times are 23.1 minutes — about one minute slower than Belfast International.

4 of the 5 worst performing airports are all in the US.

US vs UK airports average security wait times 2019

Download chart.

As a result, US airports security queues, are on average, 5 minutes slower than their UK counterparts.

Improvements

The UK figures are based on estimates. Which? collected the data by asking 4,499 passengers to provide an estimated wait time for security on their most recent visit to the airport in our recent annual airport survey.

This is far from accurate. The analysis would be much improved if I was able to use the actual figures similar to the way they are reported by the TSA in the US, although I could not find anywhere where UK airports reported these numbers.

tl;dr

Belfast International is by-far-and away the worst performing UK airport for security waiting times, taking on average over 22 minutes  — over 5 minutes longer than any other airport considered.

In the US it’s Newark Liberty International Airport in New York, where security queues are a little over 23 minutes on average.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Electric Trains, Electric Cars, or Electric Bikes. Which is best for the environment?

You’ve swapped your petrol car for a plug-in hybrid.

Or perhaps you’ve gone full electric.

Maybe you’ve given up the car entirely to take the train to work instead.

Many of us are playing our part in trying to fix the climate crisis we’re all facing.

Though you might be surprised at the environmental cost of seemingly green modes of transport.

Before you buy that electric scooter, you’ll want read this.

Methodology

travelandmobility.tech have curated a great data set analysing the environmental (carbon) impact of a range of popular transport types.

  • Operation (direct): The environmental impact caused by the direct operation of the vehicle (e.g. abrasion emissions from brake linings, wheels…)
  • Operation (indirect): The environmental impact of indirect operation is determined, which primarily includes the provision of energy (e.g, processes from energy extraction from the environment to delivery to the tank…).
  • Maintenance: All the processes required to keep the vehicle roadworthy during its service life are counted (e.g. changing the tires of cars and replacing consumables in railway trains…).
  • Manufacture & Disposal: This category includes all processes that affect the manufacturing of the vehicle that are not included in maintenance (e.g. raw materials, operating emissions of the production facilities…)
  • Roadway: The construction, maintenance, and disposal of all types of tracks are counted (e.g for road transport these include roads, car parks etc., for rail traffic these include entire lines, safety walls, bridges…)

The impact of each of these factors is measured as carbon emissions in grams per passenger kilometre.

There are a number of assumptions that have been made to compile the data, including average level of occupancy per transport type (although in cases of transport types that carry multiple passengers, this figure if not reported) and the average lifetime (distance travelled) for each transport type.

Results

Operational Emissions

Carbon emissions for transport operation in grams per passenger kilometre

Download chart.

Category Operation (direct) g p/pkm Operation (indirect) g p/pkm Operation total g p/pkm
by Foot 0.00 0.00 0.00
Bike 0.00 0.00 0.00
E-Bike 0.00 1.01 1.01
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 0.00 2.28 2.28
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 5.92 0.00 5.92
Tram 0.37 13.63 14.00
E-Bus 1.45 14.31 15.76
Car (Electric) 4.07 12.68 16.75
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 20.35 5.68 26.02
Bus (>200km) 32.32 6.31 38.63
Train (Highspeed) 0.03 40.65 40.68
Bus (<200km) 43.30 8.43 51.73
Train (Regional) 9.11 45.15 54.26
Scooter (Gasoline) 75.64 15.15 90.79
Car (Hybrid) 86.22 20.96 107.18
Motorbike (Gasoline) 97.24 24.82 122.05
Car (Diesel) 106.01 20.65 126.67
Autobus 112.25 22.10 134.35
Ferry (<200km) 123.65 23.86 147.51
Car (Gasoline) 130.23 34.11 164.34

Full table.

A gasoline car has the highest direct operating emissions (130.23 grams per pax km) and indirect emissions (34.11 g p/pkm). That’s more than a ferry (123.65 g p/pkm // 34.11 g p/pkm).

High-speed trains are very efficient for day-to-day direct operation (0.03 g p/pkm), though the indirect costs are carbon expensive (40.68 g p/pkm).

Combined, an electric car is more carbon friendly than a train from a direct and indirect operational perspective (4.07 g p/pkm // 12.68 g p/pkm).

Manufacture & Disposal Emissions

Carbon emissions for transport manufacture and disposal in grams per passenger kilometre

Download chart.

Category Manufacture & Disposal g p/pkm
by Foot 0.00
Train (Highspeed) 0.55
Train (Regional) 0.73
Tram 1.38
Bus (>200km) 1.75
Bus (<200km) 1.88
E-Bus 2.80
Autobus 3.28
Ferry (<200km) 3.75
Scooter (Gasoline) 5.40
Bike 5.91
E-Bike 10.96
Motorbike (Gasoline) 16.36
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 23.09
Car (Gasoline) 32.69
Car (Hybrid) 37.30
Car (Diesel) 39.48
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 42.20
Car (Electric) 62.57
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 63.00

Full table.

Electric powered transport is by far the most expensive to create and dispose of. That said, the carbon cost of this is likely to reduce significantly in future years as technology advances.

Currently, an E-Kick-Scooter is the worst type of transport based on the carbon cost (63g p/pkm) — that’s more than an electric car (62.57 g p/pkm)!

Despite their size, trains and trams have a low carbon cost to manufacture and dispose of (high-speed train 0.55- g p/pkm) – this is almost certainly due to the amount of passengers they carry in comparison to other forms of transport considered.

Lifetime Emissions

Carbon emissions total for transport in grams per passenger kilometre (2019)

Download chart.

Category Total g p/pkm
by Foot 0.00
Bike 7.64
E-Bike 16.12
E-Bus 25.15
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 29.84
Tram 37.47
Bus (>200km) 44.64
Train (Highspeed) 49.90
Bus (<200km) 58.20
Train (Regional) 59.64
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 82.30
Car (Electric) 92.37
Scooter (Gasoline) 100.57
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 126.00
Motorbike (Gasoline) 145.02
Autobus 145.41
Ferry (<200km) 151.45
Car (Hybrid) 158.06
Car (Diesel) 179.60
Car (Gasoline) 208.28

Full table.

Adding in maintenance and roadway costs, in addition to other factors considered, traditional diesel and gasoline cars are the most polluting over their lifetime (179.60 g p/pkm and 208.28 g p/pkm, respectively).

Plug-in hybrids have half the carbon impact compared to tradition hybrids (82.30 g p/pkm and 158.06 g p/pkm, respectively), and are even more emission friendly over their lifetime than pure electric cars (92.37 g p/pkm).

How far to generate a tonne of C02?

How many km transport type to generate tonne of co2 per pax 2019

Download chart.

Category How many km for tonne co2 / pax?
by Foot
Bike 130,868.61
E-Bike 62,028.67
E-Bus 39,761.43
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 33,516.37
Tram 26,685.14
Bus (>200km) 22,401.85
Train (Highspeed) 20,040.19
Bus (<200km) 17,182.13
Train (Regional) 16,767.27
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 12,150.77
Car (Electric) 10,826.13
Scooter (Gasoline) 9,943.46
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 7,936.51
Motorbike (Gasoline) 6,895.58
Autobus 6,877.08
Ferry (<200km) 6,602.84
Car (Hybrid) 6,326.73
Car (Diesel) 5,568.01
Car (Gasoline) 4,801.13

Full table.

In a gasoline car it takes on average just 4,800 km for each passenger to contribute a tonne of carbon dioxide. A passenger in an electric car will generate a tonne in just under 11,000 km, and a high-speed train in just over 20,000 km.

Note, it is important to stress, most of the emission are down to manufacturing costs (e.g. a Land Rover Discovery in 2010 required 35 tonnes CO2e for manufacture). See Methodology section for assumptions on lifetime distances.

Improvements

As the authors of the dataset note:

… [the results] not illustrating scientifically-proven results but provides our best guess on average carbon emissions produced by transport type based on existing third-party research that we were able to identify and combine.

It is also clear, air transport is missed. Interestingly, one of the data sources referenced is Lufthansa Innovation Hub.

It is impossible to get true figures for an analysis, there are simply too many variables, that said, the numbers used for analysis in this post could definitely be improved for a more accurate output.

tl;dr

In a gasoline car it takes just 4,800 km for each passenger to contribute a tonne of carbon dioxide. A passenger in an electric car will generate a tonne in just under 11,000 km, and a high-speed train in just over 20,000 km.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Patient 0 to the World: How Air Travel Makes it Impossible to Contain COVID-19

Corona.

What was once a summer beer is now synonymous with something far less appealing.

COVID-19, or the Corona virus, has sadly led to over 2,500 deaths and almost 100,000 infections as I write this.

Recently I was reading about the World War 1 flu pandemic that claimed an estimated 16 million lives. It is estimated one fifth of the world’s population was attacked by this deadly virus.

Most researchers attribute the movement of people around the world to the fact the flu virus was able to infect so many.

And this was before the days of commercial aviation.

In 2018 there were 4.8 billion air passengers, total. Add in rail, road and sea journeys, and it’s clear the world is incredibly interconnected. There wasn’t even 4.8 billion people on the planet in 1914 (most estimates put it at between 1.5 and 1.7 billion).

From its origin in Wuhan, here’s a simple analysis for how easily it could have been spread around the world.

Methodology

I used a variety of sources to obtain data on air travel in China to estimate and analyse passenger traffic and aircraft movements.

Results

Air Pax Volume China (2019)

China air passenger volume 2019

Download chart.

In total, there were about 660 million passengers flying from a Chinese airport in 2019.

Almost 90% were flying domestically (586 million pax), with 72 million flying out of the country — the equivalent of around 49 million domestic and 6 million international pax each month.

Where do people fly to / from in China?

Download chart.

Rank Airport Passengers
1 Beijing Capital International Airport 100,983,290
2 Shanghai Pudong International Airport 74,006,331
3 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 69,720,403
4 Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport 52,950,529
5 Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport 49,348,950
6 Kunming Changshui International Airport 47,088,140
7 Xi’an Xianyang International Airport 44,653,311
8 Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport 43,628,004
9 Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport 41,595,887
10 Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport 38,241,630

Full chart.

Over 100 million passengers flew in or out of Bejing in 2018, or a mean average of 8.3 million per month.

Even the smallest airport in the top 100 by passenger volume, Nanyang Jiangying Airport, saw over 907,000 passengers through its doors in 2018.

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport had 24.5 million in 2019, or about 2 million per month — about the same amount of time before travel restrictions came into place and the virus was widely reported.

How many flights depart from Wuhan each month?

I could not find specific flight data for Wuhan, so let’s get creative.

Given most travellers are domestic, let’s use one of the most popular short/medium range aircraft, the Boeing 737 (ignoring the ongoing MAX 8 problems).

The 737 MAX 8 typically holds around 178 in a 2 class seat configuration.

Assuming only the 737 Max flew from Wuhan, that would mean over 11,235 flights landed / departed. Given there will be larger planes in operation, let’s assume 10,000 plane movements per month.

Divide that by two, to only consider departures, gives 5,000 plane departures per month.

And this is one city alone.

Summary

According to this same calculation using the amount of 737 seats to estimate number of flights would result in the 4.8 billion passengers who flew in 2018 to have done it on about 60 million flights or 5 million each month!

And that’s just air travel.

Without a total ban on travel, I cannot see how COVID-19 will be contained.

To finish, it is important I note this is not meant to be a post designed to scare.  Remember, even if you contract the virus, it is very likely you will survive.

Improvements

These stats are clearly not accurate model of the spread of COVID-19. The post is designed to highlight how interconnected the modern world is.

I’m very interested to see the models that researchers develop as our understanding of this virus increases. I am no where near skilled enough to do this.

tl;dr

With an estimated 5 million flights taking off around the world each month, stopping viruses penetrating borders is an impossible task.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The airport car park that earns £141 million each year

People often cite the deterioration of on-board offerings. Smaller seats, less pitch, more cramped, no free food. The list goes on.

Same with airports. Security, expensive restaurants, lack of outside space.

And, yes, people complaining about these things would be correct. Myself included.

Though one thing that’s often overlooked is not the airport terminals themselves, but the car parks that serve them.

I’m not talking about long-stay offerings, including the increasingly popular off-airport car parks.

I’m talking about the short stay car parks. The car parks family and friends picking up their loved ones must use as more airports remove their pickup points.

Why? The cost. Me and my family easily spent over £300 last year, and that’s during a year when I didn’t travel as much as usual.

I’ve decided to name and shame the UK airports minting their own money from their short car parks.

Methodology

Almost all UK airports publish their own parking charges publicly online. For this exercise I used their short stay offerings — the car park someone would typically use to wait for an arriving passenger.

I selected 9 of the UK’s largest airports, including the 5 major London airports; Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and City.

It is clear airports are targeting pick-ups with short stays. Just look at the range of pricing models (note, not all airports offer these pricing tiers):

  • 0-10 minutes
  • 10-20 minutes
  • Up to 30 minutes
  • 30 to 45 minutes
  • Up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 2 hours
  • Up to 3 hours
  • Up to 4 hours

Results

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 min (2019)

Download chart.

Edinburgh, you win. The only airport to offer a free parking. Albeit for 10 minutes.

I want to hear from anyone who has parked up, collected a passenger, paid for their ticket and left the car park in 10 minutes. I have a lot to learn.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-30 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 30 mins (2019)

Download chart.

30 minutes is more realistic for a pickup.

The budget airports fare worst here. Luton charges £9 for 30 mins and Stansted £8. Some low-cost flights can be purchased for less than this!

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 1 hour

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 60 mins

Download chart.

Stying over 30 minutes will cost you an extra £15.50 to park at London City Airport. Though the £23 cost does buy you up to 4 hours of parking.

You can see there is a large spread of parking charges when we look at one hour stays. Luton and Stansted again come out as second and third most expensive for one hours stay at £16 and £14 respectively.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 3 hours

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 3 hours (2019)

Download chart.

Let’s assume your flight gets delayed, and the person waiting for you has to hang around the terminal waiting. Thanks to all the taxi drivers that have done this for me.

Luton and Stansted cash in. 3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both these airports.

In comparison, the major airports are significantly cheaper. Surprisingly the two major London airports Heathrow (£14.90) and Gatwick (£15) are both almost half the price of their smaller counterparts. They are also cheaper than Manchester (£18) and Birmingham (£16.50). Who said things were more expensive in the south?

Car Park Revenue

Heathrow currently has capacity for 51,500 cars in their car parks.

Let’s assume an underestimate; each one of those spaces brings in an hour of parking each day (£7.50).

If this was accurate, Heathrow would earn £386,250 a day or £140,981,250 a year in car park revenue!

Improvements

I’d like to see how these parking costs compare with other European and American airports.

tl;dr

3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both London Luton and London Stansted airports.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The £520 Million ATOL Refund Bill. Can the UK CAA Cover It?

In the UK, travel agents must pay £2.50 into the ATOL scheme for each person they book on a package holiday.

If a travel business with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects consumers who had booked holidays with the firm. It will support consumers currently abroad and provide financial reimbursement for the cost of replacing parts of an ATOL protected package.

ATOL Website

If you’re in the UK, you will be well aware of the ATOL scheme (operated by the UK CAA) by now after the collapse of Thomas Cook.

The mammoth repatriation effort, dubbed Operation Matterhorn (aka the largest in peacetime history), is to bring an estimated 150,000 people back to the UK.

Government figures show that the cost of reimbursing holidaymakers who lost future bookings stands at £420 million.

This is in addition to an expected £100 million bill to return Thomas Cook passengers to Britain and tens of millions owed to hotels overseas.

Thomas Cook Group Website

Though after years as one of the leading travel agents in Europe, as the Thomas Cook Group sites still boasts (parent company of Thomas Cook UK), surely the passenger ATOL contributions must cover the mounting bills?

Methodology

Using direct and indirect data sources, I was able to obtain numbers to make some “informed estimations”.

I am using figures from Thomas Cook Airlines, as I was unable to find exact package holiday passenger numbers. This is an important distinction, as Thomas Cook Airlines also carry passengers not covered under ATOL protection (e.g. those who booked flights only). As a result, many of the figures quoted will be overestimates.

Similarly, I also use figures from the Office of National Statistics that report total UK holidays by year to work out potential ATOL contributions.

ATOL contributions in this post are assumed to be fixed at £2.50 per passenger.

Results

Thomas Cook ATOL Contributions by Year

Thomas Cook Airlines Passenger Volume and Estimated ATOL contributions (2009 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year Pax (TC airlines) ATOL contribution GBP
2009 8,202,534 20,506,335
2010 8,120,815 20,302,038
2011 7,969,569 19,923,923
2012 6,783,661 16,959,153
2013 6,043,480 15,108,700
2014 6,043,480 15,108,700
2015 6,395,623 15,989,058
2016 6,623,546 16,558,865
2017 7,319,546 18,298,865
2018 8,090,208 20,225,520

Full table.

Since 2013 Thomas Cook Airlines has been carrying an increasing number of passengers. Over 2 million more in 2018 than in 2013 (25% increase).

Assuming all these passengers were covered under ATOL protection (see methodology), Thomas Cook paid over £20.2 million to the scheme in 2018. Using the same logic, over the period between 2009 and 2018 Thomas Cook airlines paid £179 million into the scheme.

Let’s assume now that only 50% of Thomas Cook airline passengers paid in to the scheme. In 2018 they would have contributed just over £10 million, and since 2009, about £90 million.

This number is still way short of the estimated £520 million final bill, as quoted above.

Potential Total Travel Agents ATOL Contributions by Year

UK Holiday Passengers and Potential ATOL contributions GBP (1998 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year UK Holiday Passengers ATOL Potential ATOL contributions GBP @100% paid UK Holiday Passengers ATOL GBP @50% paid
1998 32,306,000 80,765,000 40,382,500
1999 35,023,000 87,557,500 43,778,750
2000 36,685,000 91,712,500 45,856,250
2001 38,670,000 96,675,000 48,337,500
2002 39,902,000 99,755,000 49,877,500
2003 41,197,000 102,992,500 51,496,250
2004 42,912,000 107,280,000 53,640,000
2005 44,175,000 110,437,500 55,218,750
2006 45,287,000 113,217,500 56,608,750
2007 45,437,000 113,592,500 56,796,250
2008 45,531,000 113,827,500 56,913,750
2009 38,492,000 96,230,000 48,115,000
2010 36,422,000 91,055,000 45,527,500
2011 36,819,000 92,047,500 46,023,750
2012 36,173,000 90,432,500 45,216,250
2013 37,149,000 92,872,500 46,436,250
2014 38,519,000 96,297,500 48,148,750
2015 42,150,000 105,375,000 52,687,500
2016 45,020,000 112,550,000 56,275,000
2017 46,636,000 116,590,000 58,295,000
2018 47,042,000 117,605,000 58,802,500

Full table.

Assuming all UK holiday makers contributed towards ATOL, the scheme would have raised £117.6 million in 2018 (47 million pax). If so, since 1998 the scheme has raised £2.13 billion (from 851.5 million passengers). ATOL stated in 1973.

Let’s assume only 50% of holiday makers were required to pay into the scheme, it would still have generated a pot of over £1 billion (ignoring other times passengers have been compensated by ATOL, see below).

We have enough to cover the £520 million now…

Repaying Thomas Cook Passengers

Thomas Cook Impact on ATOL Contributions Pot 1998-2018

Download chart.

Assuming the 50% of holiday makers since 1998 were required to pay into the scheme (£1 billion), the £520 million Thomas Cook bill would require 48.9% of the schemes contributions to refund passengers.

Thomas Cook UK are the largest agency or airline to go into liquidation, by quite some margin.

Though a number of other airlines — FlyBMI, Cobalt, Monarch, etc — are likely to have impacted passengers under ATOL protection. ATOL refunds for the collapse of Monarch added up to £21 million.

Of course, many smaller agencies will have ceased trading, requiring ATOL refunds for passengers too.

The question is, has ATOL paid out more than £520 million since 1998. I’m not so sure…

Improvements

As indicated in the methodology section (and lack of a definitive answer to the question), there are lots of estimations in this post.

To improve the accuracy of the figures estimated, I would need ATOL contribution figures by agency and all payouts over the period the organisation has been operating.

tl;dr

It is very likely that the final Thomas Cook will significantly impact the balance sheet of the ATOL protection scheme. It could easily exceed over 50% of all ATOL contributions for the last 20 years.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

$1.25 billion worth of baggage was potentially lost or stolen in 2018

Recently I disembarked a long flight to find my luggage already waiting on the carousel for me. In fact, it was as if the bags delivery had been perfectly timed as it allowed me to stroll up to the carousel and collect it.

This was as an odd experience. Why? Because I’m usually waiting until the end to collect my bag.

Many people theorise as to the order bags are delivered. It’s clear priority baggage will be first. But then what? The bags that went on the plane last, and thus offloaded first? Or the other way around?

In many cases I only have myself to blame as I often travel with my bike, which usually comes out last as oversized baggage.

Waiting gives me time to people watch in the baggage haul. Fortunately, at the time of writing, an airline has never lost my bag, but I’ve seen plenty of others told their bag has gone missing.

When will my luck run out?

Methodology

For the last 5 years Sita, an airline consultancy, have produced analysis titled, The Baggage Report, that reports on airline baggage trends.

View all the reports here.

Using these 5 reports I compiled the key stats regarding mishandled bags for analysis. Mishandled bags includes those lost or stolen, those that have been damaged or had items stolen, or those that have been delayed on arrival.

Data exists for years 2003, 2007, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and covers major global airlines.

Results

Reasons for mishandled baggage (2018)

Reason for lost baggage chart (2018)

Download chart.

77% of mishandled bags are delayed, 18% damaged or pilfered, with 5% completely lost or stolen.

Total passengers vs. mishandled bags

Total passengers vs. Mishandled bags per 1k pax

Download chart.

Passenger numbers continue to increase year-on-year. In 2018 4.36 billion passengers were carried, compared to 1.89 billion in 2003.

Though airlines and airports are handling the increase well. There is an inverse correlation between passenger and mishandled bags; as passengers have increased, mishandled bags have generally decreased.

2018 saw a slight increase in mishandled bags (5.69 per 1000 pax), up from 2017 (5.57 per 1000 pax). Though this is a massive improvement on 2003 (13.2 per 1000 pax) and 2007 (18.8 per 1000 pax!), despite the increased passenger traffic in the last few years.

Total mishandled bags each year

Total Bags Mishandled each year

Download chart.

Almost 25 million bags were mishandled in 2018. We know of this 25 million, 5% were lost or stolen — that’s 1.25 million bags that passengers will never see again.

Assuming each bag has $500 worth of items in, which I would argue is an underestimate including the bag, that’s $625 million worth of lost baggage insurance companies might have to cover in the worst case.

Expanding this further, if each bag and its contents averages $1000 in value (what many basic travel insurance policies will cover) that adds up to $1.25 billion worth of lost and stolen baggage in 2018 globally!

77% or 19.25 million bags were delayed in 2018 meaning the airlines then have to deliver them back to passengers. Assuming it costs $10 to deliver each bag back to a traveller on average (this is a complete guess), that’s another $192.5 million airlines have to budget for (in their razor thin margins).

Chances you’ll lose a bag

Download chart.

Overall, you had a 0.57% chance of your bag being mishandled in 2018 — that’s 1 bag mishandled for every 175 passengers. Following current trends, this risk is likely to be slightly reduced in 2019.

You had a very low chance of your bag being completely lost or stolen (0.03% or 1 in 3333 passengers). It’s much more likely your bag was delayed (0.44% or 1 in 227 passengers).

tl;dr

You had a 0.57% chance of your bag being mishandled in 2018 — that’s 1 bag mishandled for every 175 passengers.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Airline meals in the US are getting more fattening

Some adore them. Others turn their nose up.

Meals, or should I say, meals served in economy on board a flight often receive bad press. Some of those served in first, rival some of the best restaurants I’ve visited.

Personally I like the fairly new trend of buying meals in the terminal and taking them on-board. Many airlines are starting to charge passengers for food on long-haul routes anyway.

My reason being is that I get more choice, and can often select something slightly healthier if I want to.

Which got me thinking? How nutritious are meals on-board a flight?

Methodology

In 2018 Diet Detective wrote to various US airlines offering transcontinental routes to provide nutritional information on inflight meals and snacks.

I used a mean average of these numbers to come up with the analysis used in this post.

Results

Meal options

Average Meal kCal Airline

Download chart

The average meal onboard these airlines has 492 calories. For 2 meals on a long-haul flight, that’s just under 1000 calories. Well below the 2000 calories recommended for an “average” person.

Air Canada meals offer the lowest calorie content at 377 per meal, compared to Delta where onboard meals average 559 calories.

Snack options

Average Snack kCal airline

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Snacks have a much larger variance. JetBlue snacks average 142 calories. On Hawiian, snacks average 460 calories — more than the average meal on Air Canada flights.

Yearly change

Average kCal per airline menu choice

Download chart

Looking at an average across all menu choices, the average number of calories was 360 in 2012; in 2013 it was 388; in 2014 it was 397; in 2015 it was 400; in 2016 it was 392, in 2017 it was 405 calories, a 13 calorie increase over 2016.

In all but one year, 2016, calorie content for airline food has slowly increased.

Improvements

The Diet Detective report did not cover all US airlines, nor did it cover any international airlines. It would be interesting to compare US versus international airlines for meal offerings given some international airlines offer a wide variety of meal choices to travellers (namely those in the Middle East).

tl;dr

The average airline menu item has increased in calorie content from 360 in 2012 to 405 in 2018 — an increase of 45 calories.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

 

Long Haul Flights Do Not Have Enough Toilets

The meals have been eaten and washed down with a glass of wine.

Twenty minutes later, everyone needs the toilet. Cue, a long queue to use the aircraft toilets.

In the age of airline cost-cutting, replacing a toilet with a seat is far more attractive on the balance sheet.

So how many toilets are ‘enough’?

Methodology

Most people can manage without using the toilet on a short flight of an hour or so. In fact, many people can manage on a flight of 2 or 3 hours.

For this post I looked at four planes that operate long haul routes, where most passengers will use the toilets at least once during the journey:

Introduced Manufacturer Model Airline Seatguru
2006 Boeing 777-200LR Emirates Seat map
2007 Airbus A380 Emirates Seat map
2012 Boeing 747-8 Lufthansa Seat map
2014 Boeing 787-9 Virgin Atlantic Seat map

The rules

There are no US laws specifying minimum numbers of toilets on board planes.

There is also little guidance about recommended ratios of toilets to people elsewhere in the world.

To add some context, UK Health and Safety laws require a ratio of one toilet to start plus one more for each 25 people or part thereof. So in a workplace with 8 people, there would be a requirement for two toilets. In a workplace with 28 people, there should be three toilets, and so on.

The reality

All seats

 

Total Toilet Ratio Rank Plane Total Toilet:Seat Ratio Eco Toilet:Seat Ratio
1 2012 Boeing 747-8 (Lufthansa) 1:28 1:46
2 2014 Boeing 787-9 (Virgin Atlantic) 1:29 1:38
3 2006 Boeing 777-200LR (Emirates) 1:30 1:43
3 2007 Airbus A380 (Emirates) 1:30 1:43

View full table

The Boeing 747-8 has one toilet for every 28 passengers, compared to just one toilet shared between 30 on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-200LR. The newer planes offer the best ratio of passengers to toilets.

These numbers are considering total toilets across all seat classes. The picture improves in first class where some passengers enjoy 1 seat between 4 people (Boeing 747-8 and 777-200LR). Which of course impacts the numbers for economy passengers. The worst toilet to seat ratio for economy passengers is found on the Boeing 747-8, with one toilet for every 46 passengers.

Toilet efficiency

Let’s assume on an 8 hour flight a passenger visits the toilet twice on each journey, with an average time in the toilet of 4 minutes (8 minutes total).

For this calculation I’m going to only consider economy seats, because, lets be honest, we already know first and business class travellers have it good!

Plane Time in toilet p/pax Total Pax mins in toilet total Each economy toilet use (mins) Toilet in use (8 hours ave) Toilet in use (2 hours ave)
2006 Boeing 777-200LR (Emirates) 8 1728 346 72.00% 288.00%
2007 Airbus A380 (Emirates) 8 3416 342 71.78% 284.67%
2012 Boeing 747-8 (Lufthansa) 8 2208 368 76.67% 306.67%
2014 Boeing 787-9 (Virgin Atlantic) 8 1816 303 63.06% 252.22%

View full table

Overall the toilets on these aircraft are occupied between 63% – 72% of the flight, assuming they are open for use across the whole 8 hours. This equates to each toilet being occupied for around 5.5 hours in total.

That said, it’s not a perfect world. Most people tend to use the bathrooms on these types of flights about an hour after the first meal, and again in the final hour of the flight as it approaches its destination. Let’s assume that’s a 2 hour window.

Again, assuming passenger spend an average of 8 minutes in the toilet the numbers look a lot worse. The toilet utilisation is between 252% – 288%, meaning it is likely there will be someone in the toilet when you come to use it.

tl;dr

The worst toilet to seat ratio for economy passengers is found on the Boeing 747-8, with one toilet for every 46 passengers. At peak times, it’s very likely you’ll have at least two people queuing ahead of you to use the toilet.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.