Passport Power Rank 2021

It has been almost three years since my last Passport Power Rank post.

To quote that post:

 every year it appears the world has changed drastically since the last.

Holds true.

Let’s see how visa-free travel has changed over the last three years.

Methodology

Each year Henley & Partners publishes a “Global Passport Index”, a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awarded to countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information, and is enhanced by extensive in-house research.

There are 219 destination countries (territories) in total. The maximum attainable score is 218 (points are not assigned for a national traveling to their own country).

Analysis

Best passports for travel by country (2021)

Interactive map.

country Visa Free Destinations 2021 2021 rank
Japan 191 1
Singapore 190 2
Germany 189 3
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of 189 3
Italy 188 5
Spain 188 5
Finland 188 5
Luxembourg 188 5
Yemen 33 194
Somalia 33 194
Pakistan 32 196
Syrian Arab Republic 29 197
Iraq 28 198
Afghanistan 26 199

Full table.

Looking at the map, it’s clear there is an East/West split in passport mobility.

Change in visa-free requirements by country (2019-2021)

2019-2021 change map

Interactive map.

country 2019-2021 % change 2019-2021 point change
Poland 5.23 9.00
Qatar 10.47 9.00
Dominica 5.93 8.00
Saudi Arabia 9.72 7.00
United Arab Emirates 3.59 6.00
New Zealand 2.78 5.00
Holy See (Vatican City State) 3.38 5.00
Macao 3.60 5.00
Colombia 4.03 5.00
Kuwait 5.49 5.00
Thailand 6.76 5.00
China 7.14 5.00
Rwanda 9.09 5.00
Vietnam 10.20 5.00
Taiwan, Province of China -0.68 -1.00
Honduras -0.74 -1.00
El Salvador -0.74 -1.00
Micronesia, Federated States of -0.84 -1.00
Paraguay -1.40 -2.00
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of -3.73 -5.00

Full table.

Qatar (86 – 95) and Poland (172 – 181) passports now have 9 extra visa-free travel destinations since 2019. Venezuelan (134 – 129) passport holders on the other hand have lost 5 visa-free travel destinations, owing largely to the ongoing political turmoil in the country.

Changes in global travel freedom (2019 – 2021)

Total Global Visa Free Access

Download chart.

369 new visa-free travel destinations in total became available to global travellers in 2021 since 2019.

Improvements

The results produced by Henley and Partners show aggregated visa data. For example, it does not show which countries have visa-free travel between them. It would be useful to track what countries are added or removed to visa-free travel lists to explain any changes.

tl;dr

The Japanese passport has the largest number of destinations its holders can travel to without a visa.

Get the data

Data sources + data used in this post.

Only 2% of the world’s population travelled internationally in 2018

This year felt a little odd (said everyone, everywhere).

I usually fly a lot for work. 2 or 3 times a month. So far this year, no business flights.

I’m torn on this fact. On one hand, I believe such face-to-face interaction with teams is vital (at least to me), on the other I realise I am part of the environmental problem.

As a human, I try and wrestle with my moral conscious. “I’m not as bad a Sarah”, “I don’t take flights for the sake of points“, I tell myself in a weak attempt to justify my flights.

It got me thinking, how do I compare to the average person?

Methodology

Global Environmental Change (Volume 65, November 2020, 102194) recently released a study titled; The global scale, distribution and growth of aviation: Implications for climate change.

This report used industry statistics, data provided by supranational organisations, and national surveys to develop a pre-COVID understanding of air transport demand at global, regional, national and individual scales.

Whilst I stress these are pre-pandemic estimates (although many suggest air travel will soon bounce back to normal levels).

Some of the processed data detailed in the report is used in this post alongside directly cited data.

Results

% of population that travel

According to IATA (2019), there were 4.378 billion passengers in 2018 (international and domestic). This is not equivalent to trip numbers or individual travellers. Most air trips are symmetrical, i.e. they will involve a departure as well as a return.

As ten percent of all flights involve a transfer, 4.378 billion passengers would thus represent a maximum of 1.99 billion trips.

The share of the global population participating in international air travel is even smaller, as a significant share of all air travel takes place within countries. Domestic air travel included 2.566 billion passengers in 2018, out of this 590 million in the USA, 515 million in China, and 116 million in India (IATA, 2019).

International air travel consequently only comprised 1.811 billion passengers, who are also more likely to move through hubs. On the basis of the conservative assumption that one international trip comprises 2.2 flights (IATA, 2019), some 823 million international trips were made in 2018.

Non flying population

This does not consider that there is a significant share of the population in every country that does not fly, while some air travellers participate in one, two, or multiple trips.

% non-flying pop est. (2018-2019)

Download chart.

% non-flying pop est. (2018-2019)
United States 53
Germany 65
Taiwan 66
UK 59

Full table.

For example, data for the USA suggests that 53% of the adult population do not fly (Airlines for America, 2018). In Germany, 65% of the population do not fly (IFD Allensbach, 2019), while this share is 66% in Taiwan (Tourism Bureau Taiwan, 2019). In the UK, the non-flying share of the population 16 years or older is 59% (DEFRA, 2009).

These national surveys indicate that in high income countries, between 53% and 65% of the population will not fly in a given year. The share of non-fliers is likely larger in low-income, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries. The share of non-fliers is likely larger in low-income, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries.

International multi-trip flyers

An alternative way of calculating the share of the population participating in international air travel is to divide the number of international trips by an average trip number per traveler.

For example, Airlines for America (2018) suggest that the average air traveler makes 5.3 trips per year, with a relatively large share of travellers participating in only one or two trips, and a rather small share accounting for large trip numbers.

Applying the US average of 5.3 trips as an indication of skewed demand, 823 million international trips involved only 155 million unique air travellers, or 2% of the world population (world population of 7.594 billion).

Similarly, for domestic trips, applying this logic, 5.3 trips for the average traveller with 2.566 billion domestic passengers in 2018, means about 6% of the world’s population (456 million) travelled domestically.

Global distribution of aviation fuel use (2019)

Global distribution of aviation fuel use (2019)

Download chart.

Type % share of aviation fuel use
Commercial aviation: Passengers 71
Commercial aviation: Freight 17
Military 8
Private 4

Full table.

There’s some guesswork here, as there is no global data for military operations or private flights.

It has been suggested that military aircraft consumed 22% of US jet fuel in 2008 (Spicer et al., 2009), though a lower recent estimate for the US in absolute numbers is 18.35 Mt CO2 (in 2017; Belcher et al., 2020). In a global estimate for 2002, Eyers et al. (2004) concluded that global military operations required 19.5 Mt of fuel, leading to emissions of 61 Mt CO2, or 11.1% of global emissions from aviation.

For an estimate, the current contribution of military flight to global emissions from aviation is assumed to be 8%. This estimate is uncertain, but highlights the importance of military flight in aviation emissions.

Data on private aviation is equally limited. The global business aviation market is estimated to have included 22,295 jets, 14,241 turboprops, and 19,291 turbine helicopters in 2016 (AMSTAT Market Analysis, 2018). Assuming an average of 400 h of flight time per year for the global fleet of private jets, with an estimate of a 1200 kg/hour fuel use (Gössling, 2019), jet fuel burn was 10.7 Mt in 2016, corresponding to 33.7 Mt of CO2.

Adding the fuel use of turboprops and helicopters, overall emissions from private transport may be in the order of 40 Mt CO2. This would suggest that private aviation accounts for about 4% of global emissions from aviation

At first glance the military and private aviation fuel use might seem low, but considering it on a per passenger basis, this share of fuel is actually comparatively high.

Fuel use Mt CO2 by aviation travel type (2017)

Fuel use Mt CO2 by aviation travel type (2017)

Download chart.

Estimates of global fuel use vary. More recent estimates presented by IATA (2018) suggest that civil aviation – including international and domestic, passengers and freight – emitted 859 Mt CO2 in 2017.

Assuming this is 88% of total consumption (71% passengers + 17% freight), then global fuel consumption in 2017 was 976 Mt CO2.

Therefore, commercial aviation (passengers) contributed 693 Mt CO2 in 2017.

The International Energy Agency (IEA, 2019a) specifies that about 60.4% of this for international aviation (416 Mt CO2), and 39.6% for domestic aviation (277 Mt CO2).

Over the past 20 years, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels and industry have been steadily increasing, and by 2018 reached a record high of 36.6 billion metric tons (Statista).

Looking at all emissions, commercial aviation (passengers) contributed 0.693 Bt CO2 emissions in 2017, which is 1.9% of all global emissions (0.693/36.6).

Thus, 2% of all CO2 emissions (0.693 Bt CO2) are caused by an estimated 6%-8% of the worlds population (from air travel).

Improvements

In many cases the data in the post considers data reported over different time periods, or uses aggregated data. Being able to access like-for-like raw data would improve accuracy.

tl;dr

823 million international trips involved only 155 million unique air travellers, or 2% of the world population

2.566 billion domestic trips involved only 456 million unique air travellers, or 6% of the world population.

Together, these passengers created 2% of all CO2 emissions.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

In the USA, 20% of the Population Go Into Debt to Fund Christmas

Suppose you find out about a government program that was spending $80 billion per year, and suppose you found out that the $80 billion could have been achieved with $60 billion in spending. Would you be concerned as a taxpayer?

In 1993 Joel Waldfogel once wrote a paper titled The Deadweight Loss of Christmas, in which estimated that ill-chosen gifts caused between $4 billion and $13 billion a year in economic waste; for comparison, he cited an estimate that put economic costs of the income tax at $50 billion.

But how much does Christmas giving differ in traditionally Christian countries?

Methodology

ING produce a range of yearly Christmas reports that produce analysis from survey’s they’ve commissioned.

For this post I used the latest available published reports in 2016 titled, Presents of Mind and Christmas and New Year.

It is important to note that the study only considers the countries explicitly listed.

Results

How much do you plan on spending this year on Christmas presents? (2016)

How much do you plan on spending this year on Christmas presents? (2016)

Download chart.

Rank Country Median spend (EUR) Do not know (%)
1 United Kingdom 420 44
2 USA 360 33
3 Luxembourg 300 45
4 Austria 250 38
4 France 250 42
6 Australia 200 44
6 Germany 200 37
6 Italy 200 40
6 Spain 200 46
10 Czech Republic 180 39
11 Belgium 150 50
12 Romania 110 40
13 Poland 70 50
14 Netherlands 40 41

Full table.

The UK spend the most, 420 EUR on presents, that’s 60 EUR more than second place, the USA, where the population spends a median average of 360 EUR on gifts.

Citizens in the Netherlands spend the least by far — just 40 EUR on Christmas Day gifts. It is worth noting though, countries hold Christmas-type celebrations at different times. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas on 5 and 6 December – the feast of St Nicholas – means less may be spent on 24 and 25 December than in other countries that focus on a single day.

Interestingly in all countries, between 30% and 50% of those surveyed has no idea how much they spent, which could mean spending being significantly higher than figures reported!

Potential wasted spending (2016)

Potential wasted spending (2016) 

Download chart.

Country Wasted money EUR (assuming loss 20%)
United Kingdom 84
USA 72
Luxembourg 60
Austria 50
France 50
Australia 40
Germany 40
Italy 40
Spain 40
Czech Republic 36
Belgium 30
Romania 22
Poland 14
Netherlands 8

Full table.

Assuming Joel Waldfogel’s assumption of an average spend of about 20% being spent on unwanted gifts, UK citizens wasted 84 EUR on unwanted gifts in 2016.

Did you get into debt to fund Christmas celebrations? (2016)

Did you get into debt to fund Christmas celebrations? (2016)

Download chart.

Rank Country Went into debt for Christmas %
1 USA 20
2 Romania 16
3 United Kingdom 15
4 Australia 12
5 France 10
6 Spain 9
6 Poland 9
8 Italy 8
9 Czech Republic 7
10 Germany 6
10 Belgium 6
12 Luxembourg 5
13 Austria 4
14 Netherlands 3

Full table.

In the USA, around one-fifth of people spend Christmas in the red, while the people of the Netherlands are least likely to go into debt to finance the festivities (which is understandable given the reported spending).

The report found 40% of people say Christmas is the one time they spend money without worrying about it and also that a significant number of those polled feel forced to spend money.

What type of gifts did you receive for Christmas last year? (2016)

What type of gifts did you receive for Christmas last year? (2016)

Download chart.

Country Practical gifts % Leisure gifts % Money % Gift cards % Luxurious or special gifts % Didn’t receive any % Can’t remember %
United Kingdom 50 31 26 25 22 10 13
USA 53 25 25 40 19 30 8
Luxembourg 40 37 26 14 17 15 11
Austria 41 31 32 34 12 16 7
France 38 30 23 15 12 18 9
Australia 43 21 15 28 11 18 15
Germany 38 25 27 26 15 20 8
Italy 50 23 17 8 12 19 12
Spain 58 30 17 7 15 18 5
Czech Republic 70 44 29 12 10 6 7
Belgium 33 20 18 20 10 25 10
Romania 57 17 14 1 6 18 13
Poland 52 23 18 8 11 15 11
Netherlands 21 14 5 11 10 50 8

Download table.

Across Europe, 46% say they got practical gifts such as household items for Christmas last year. Twenty-six percent received presents related to hobbies or leisure.

Twenty-one percent in Europe say they received money presents in 2015; 16% received gift cards, while 14% got luxuries or other “special” items. More Czechs (70%) are practical gift givers.

Half in the Netherlands say they received no Christmas gifts last year. Potential reasons may include the Sinterklaas festival, marked in the Netherlands and in parts of Belgium earlier in December, as noted previously.

Improvements

This post considers aggregated statistics from a study conducted by ING in 2016. It would be really interesting to consider spending intentions in subsequent year, especially this year, where COVID-19 is likely to have a significant negative impact on spending intentions.

tl;dr

UK citizens spend the most on Christmas gifts (420 EU) with Dutch citizens spending the least (40 EUR). In all countries, a significant number of gift givers actually having no idea what they spend.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

COVID-19 and the £1 billion cruise ship

The cruise industry has been hit hard by COVID-19.

Whilst during a trip to the southern coast of the UK this summer I saw 10 large ships moored up off the coast. I think they’re still there.

I imagine it’s a similar picture in many of the world’s harbours.

When you start playing with the numbers of cruising, you quickly realise two things. 1. They’re big. 2. You’ll need a calculator.

The Symphony of the Seas the world’s largest cruise ship by gross tonnage (228,081 GT) measures 361.011 metres in length, cost £959m ($1.35bn) to build, has 18 decks, is able to accommodate 5,518 passengers at double occupancy up to a maximum capacity of 6,680 passengers, as well as a 2,200-person crew.

A week in the Ultimate Family Suite sells for between $20,000 (low season) and $80,000 (Christmas week).

It’s owner Royal Caribbean suspended all service across most of its fleet, including Symphony of the Seas, until September of this year (2020).

How much have cruise operators fortunes changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Methodology

At the moment cruise operators are all offering some incentives to attract passengers.

I managed to find an old price list from Royal Caribbean with 2018-2019 prices to get an idea of pre-pandemic prices.

The Symphony of the Seas operates around the world. I used the “starting from” prices for a 9 night cruise (cruise only) around the western Caribbean.Symphony

Results

Cruise cost (2018-19)

Download chart.

Cruise Only
Interior £1,099
Promenade £1,199
Ocean View £1,299
Balcony £1,499
Suites £2,399

Full table.

Estimated Revenue (2018-19)

Symphony of the Seas 9 night cruise (cruise only) Western Caribbean (2018-19 Prices) revenue share by room type

Download chart.

Type Cruise Only Estimated Percentage of rooms Passengers (100% occupancy) Cruise Revenue
Interior £1,099 0.40 2672 £2,936,528
Promenade £1,199 0.30 2004 £2,402,796
Ocean View £1,299 0.16 1069 £1,388,371
Balcony £1,499 0.10 668 £1,001,332
Suites £2,399 0.04 267 £641,013

Full table.

Assuming the above breakdown of room types, prices, and passengers (100% occupancy), the estimated ticket revenue alone for Royal Caribbean is £8,370,040.

Symphony of the Seas 9 night cruise (cruise only) Western Caribbean (2018-19 Prices) revenue estimations

Download chart.

Ticket Revenue (GBP)
100% occupancy £8,370,040.00
90% occupancy £7,533,036.00
80% occupancy £6,696,032.00
70% occupancy £5,859,028.00

Full table.

Let’s assume 80% occupancy as a best-case; £6,696,032, that the ship bills this, on average, for all cruises (it operates other routes), and that the ship is operating with passengers onboard 80% of the year (365 *0.8 = 292 days).

This means the cruise can be operated 32 times a year (292/9 days), giving an estimated income of £214,273,024 per year. Ignoring all operating costs (which will be high — the ship has over 2000 staff onboard), the ship will bill enough in ticket revenue to cover its cost (£959m) in just under 4 years (£959,000,000/£214,273,024).

Pre-COVID.

Assuming cruises were not operating for 5 months (150 days / 12 potential cruises) that’s an estimated £80,352,384 (£6,696,032*12) of lost revenue from this ship alone. Royal Caribbean has 26 ships.

Let’s assume that the both the occupancy rate drops to 40% (estimated revenue £3,348,016) — because ticket costs might not come down — AND that the amount of cruises are reduced by 50% to 16 times a year (16*£3,348,016), reducing revenues to £53,568,256 per year.

When you’re dealing with big numbers, even small changes can have a dramatic impact. It’s clear the cruise industry, like almost all travel industries is in for some very hard time ahead, even if these calculations are not

Improvements

This post contains very rough calculations, from estimated revenues to operational times of the ship.

It also completely ignores operating costs, which must be massive for a cruise ship.

Both of which would make immediate improvement to this post.

tl;dr

Pre-COVID 19 the world’s largest cruise ship, the Symphony of the Seas, could have billed around £7 million in passenger ticket revenue for a 9 day cruise. Revenues could easily be half this figure currently.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The cost of 1GB of mobile data in 228 countries

When travelling, I’ll often purchase a temporary SIM card for data usage in that country.

It’s sometime surprising how little these cost, in reference to US mobile tariffs.

Which got me thinking; where does the USA sit in the mobile data league table?

Methodology

Data from 5,554 mobile data plans in 228 countries were gathered and analysed by Cable.co.uk between 3 February and 25 February 2020. The average cost of one gigabyte (1GB) was then calculated and compared to form a worldwide mobile data pricing league table. Full methodology can be read here.

All prices shown in USD ($).

Results

The country league table

Average price of 1GB of Mobile Data by Country

Download chart.

Average price of 1GB (USD) vs Name

View interactive map.

Rank Name Average price of 1GB (USD)
1 India 0.09
2 Israel 0.11
3 Kyrgyzstan 0.21
4 Italy 0.43
5 Ukraine 0.46
224 São Tomé and Príncipe 28.26
225 Bermuda 28.75
226 Nauru 30.47
227 Falkland Islands 40.41
228 Saint Helena 52.50

Full table.

The five most expensive countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are São Tomé and Príncipe ($28.26), Bermuda ($28.75), Nauru ($30.47), Falkland Islands ($40.41) and Saint Helena ($52.50).

The similarities between these five nations are both striking and obvious. They are all island nations. Islands are less likely to have an extensive fibre infrastructure, and since mobile networks normally rely on connection to a fibre backbone, other more expensive solutions such as satellite uplink have had to be instituted – a cost passed on to the consumer.

The five cheapest countries in terms of the average cost of 1GB of mobile data are India ($0.09), Israel ($0.11), Kyrgyzstan ($0.21), Italy ($0.43), and Ukraine ($0.46).

Conversely to the most expensive, none of these countries are islands. Further, they all either contain excellent fibre broadband infrastructure (Italy, India, Ukraine, Israel), or in the case of Kyrgyzstan rely heavily on mobile data as the primary means to keep its populace connected to the rest of the world.

The global mean average is $5.09, and median is $3.24 for 1GB of mobile data.

The region league table

Average price of 1GB of Mobile Data by Region

Download chart.

Continental region Number of countries Average price of 1GB (USD)
NORTHERN AFRICA 7 2.06
CIS (FORMER USSR) 11 2.16
ASIA (EX. NEAR EAST) 28 2.28
BALTICS 3 2.31
WESTERN EUROPE 29 3.13
CENTRAL AMERICA 8 3.24
EASTERN EUROPE 15 3.42
NEAR EAST 15 4.46
SOUTH AMERICA 13 5.80
SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA 47 6.91
CARIBBEAN 28 7.19
OCEANIA 20 7.85
NORTHERN AMERICA 4 14.71

Full table.

It’s notable when looking at the global league table how far down it you have to read before you get to Canada and the United States. The largest and richest North American nations are ranked 209 and 188 in the world in terms of the price of mobile data with 1GB costing an average $12.55 in Canada and $8.00 in the US.

The other two countries regarded as being part of Northern America are vastly different – there’s the north Atlantic island nation of Bermuda ($28.75), which is easily the most expensive in the region (and fourth most expensive in the world), and Greenland ($9.56), which sits mostly in the Arctic circle and has only one mobile provider.

The seven Northern African countries included in the research appear higher up the table than the majority of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, although none make it into the top ten cheapest in the world.

The cheapest country in the region is Algeria, with an average of $0.65, followed by Western Sahara and Morocco (both $0.99). These three all make it into the world’s top 40 cheapest and even Libya, the most expensive country in Northern Africa, still avoids the bottom 50 with an average of $4.73.

Improvements

It’s important to stress the word cheap is used in relation to other countries throughout this post.

Whilst $0.09 is cheap for many Westerners, for a large proportion of the Indian population, based on income, this might not be the case.

It would therefore be useful to adjust the calculated cost based on the median income of each country.

tl;dr

India is the cheapest country in which to buy mobile data, with the average cost of 1GB at USD 0.09. The United States is one of the most expensive developed nations for purchasing mobile data, coming in 188th in the world, and with an average 1GB cost of USD 8.00 – well above the global average.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

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)

Download chart.

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.

The $6,500 Hotel Bed

Hotels should have a bed rating system.

Beds overflowing with soft pillows and a soft mattress. 1*.

Firm pillows and a firm mattress. 5*.

Many hotels beds are far superior to any store bought alternatives.

I remember one of my first ever stays at a high-end hotel for business when flipping through the information book I found the bed was for sale.

For a recent graduate, it wasn’t cheap.

Which explains why an astonishing 49 five-star hotels reported that mattresses had been stolen from their premises since January 2018.

Then I started looking at the prices of hotel beds and quickly realised the bed I saw for sale was, in fact, relatively cheap.

Methodology

I used prices for mattresses from Casper, a popular mattress delivery company, as a baseline. I chose Casper as the company offers three types of mattresses that can be broadly classed into price points; basic to premium.

For hotel mattress prices, I went directly to the hotel for prices. If the hotel was not able to directly provide a price on their website, I did not include the mattress in this analysis. In total I selected 22 mattresses from 6 hotel chains.

All prices used are for full priced California King mattresses (I want total luxury after all!).

Results

Cost of Casper Californian King Mattresses

Cost of Casper Californian King Mattresses (December 2019)

Download chart.

Model Cal King Price (USD)
The Essential $795
The Casper $1,195
The Wave $2,695

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Cost of Californian King Mattresses by Hotel (December 2019)

Cost of Californian King Mattresses by Hotel (December 2019)

Download chart.

Bed name Hotel Chain Mattress Price USD
Omni Suite Pillow Top Bed Omni Hotels and Resorts 1,114.00
Cape Breton Plush Mattress Wyndham 1,323.50
Cape Breton Pillow Top Mattress Wyndham 1,523.81
Hilton Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
The Sweet Dreams Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
Hampton Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
Sheraton Bed Marriott International 1,795.00
The Heavenly Bed Marriott International 1,895.00
Pillow Top Mattress Marriott International 1,989.00
Euro Top Mattress Marriott International 1,989.00
Home2 Mattress Hilton Worldwide 1,995.00
Sofitel Bed Accor Hotels 1,999.00
The Marriott Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
Courtyard Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
The JW Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
Waldorf Astoria Bed Hilton Worldwide 2,195.00
The Ritz-Carlton Bed Marriott International 2,995.00
The St. Regis Mattress Marriott International 3,495.00
The Luxury Collection Bed Marriott International 3,495.00
Signature Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00
Signature Plush Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00
Signature Firm Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Of the 22 hotel mattresses considered, all are more expensive than the Essential Casper mattress ($795).

Only 1 is hotel mattress is cheaper than The Casper mattress ($1,195), the Omni Hotels, Omni Suite Pillow Top Bed.

Perhaps surprisingly though, 6 are more expensive than The Wave Casper Mattress ($2695). The Wave is competing with some high end 5* hotel beds including those offered by the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Four Seasons chains.

The Ultimate Luxury

Item Hotel Chain Mattress Price USD Quantity Total
Signature Firm Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00 1 3999
Sheet Set Four Seasons 599.00 1 599
Down & Feather Pillow Four Seasons 199.00 4 796
Duvet Cover Set Four Seasons 649.00 1 649
All Seasons Duvet Four Seasons 499.00 1 499

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Now that you’re convinced you need the ultimate in luxury, here’s what it will cost to buy…

$6,542

… and that figure doesn’t include the bed frame.

Cost to kit out a hotel

According to this article (2011), the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, is the largest Four Seasons resort in the world.

The property boasts 444 rooms, 40 Four Seasons Residence Club units, and 90 Four Seasons Private Residence — about 574 beds in total.

Excluding bed frames, that’s $3,755,108 ($6,542*574) worth of bedding at retail price.

Improvements

Price does not equal quality. It would be really interesting, should the data exist, to compare the reviews and prices of hotel mattresses to other retail manufacturers.

tl;dr

A Four Seasons mattress and bedding (excluding bed frame) will cost you $6,542 to bring home.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.