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Reducing the Costs of Flight Data Inaccuracies

Mar 5, 2024 // Jan Uphues

Flight data

Want to blame something for flight delays, missed connections and baggage that never makes it on the connecting flight, as well as safety hazards? You can cast some of the blame on flight data inaccuracies.

Just last August, the agency, NATS (formerly National Air Traffic Services), which is responsible for monitoring the two million flights annually to and from the United Kingdom, cited a major technical issue and related chaos caused by incorrect flight data. Martin Rolfe, the UK´s head of air traffic control, said the technical glitch was caused by “dodgy flight data.” Thousands of passengers were affected, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated that the flight data inaccuracies cost the airlines £100 million.

This January, INFORM formed a partnership and collaboration with FlightAware, a division of Collins Aerospace, and a leading provider of real-time and historical flight information and insights. The company is recognized for providing the most accurate and comprehensive flight tracking by merging data from thousands of sources worldwide. Among these data sources are Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), ACARS Datalink (VHF or SATCOM), FlightAware’s Terrestrial ADS-B Network, Aireon℠ and Airline FLIFO.


FlightAware’s Role

FlightAware makes its data available to aviation customers in a processed, bundled form in real-time. It receives ATC RADAR positions and flight plan information (i.e., real-time departure, arrival and delay information, and flow management) from Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) in 45 nations. Position reports and flight information (FLIPO) data from more than 10,000 aircraft and virtually all VHF or satellite datalink providers is integrated. Further, FlightAware’s own worldwide network consists of over 30,000 terrestrial ADS-B receivers and is comprised of FlightAware users hosting ground stations that feed the company flight tracking data. Real-time positions are captured by the receivers at a rate of multiple times per minute for both aircraft flying over land and surface movements at hundreds of airports across the globe. Using a process called multilateration, aircraft not yet equipped with ADS-B can also be tracked.


INFORM Leverages the Accurate Flight Data

For its part, INFORM utilizes the data provided by FlightAware. As a result, a vastly improved data basis is developed which, in turn, optimizes the allocation of existing resources. This contrasts with what previously could be achieved when customer systems were able only to use average values of historical data which was often inaccurate in terms of certain timestamps of the turnaround phase including Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) and/or Target off-block Time (TobT).


Accuracy in Minutes Makes the Difference

Relying on average values which vary from FlightAware’s accurate data by just minutes may not seem like a big problem. But let us do the math. Saved minutes, added up for over thousands of turnaround processes, are critical to successful airport operations. If an allocator has an additional five or ten minutes to reallocate existing resources, an airline’s performance, and punctuality benefits. Gate managers can make more informed decisions about how to maximize connectivity. Even when delays inevitably happen, better advanced data means better decisions can be made on whether to wait on those connecting bags or passengers or try to reaccommodate them early. Accurate data also can enable passengers to de-board an aircraft sooner due to faster availability of boarding resources. Finally, the entire turnaround process can be reduced through the possible ability to gain ground in addressing a slight delay.


Making Dollars and Sense of It All

What are the costs associated with inaccurate flight data? Here are a just a few sources citing costs associated with flight disruptions and delays, many of which could have been reduced with the application of accurate flight data.

- In 2022, flight disruptions cost the United States up to $34 billion, Europe up to $32 billion, and Australia up to $11.5 billion.

- The trade association, Airlines for America, said that flight delays in 2022 cost the industry billions of dollars.

- United Airlines reported that the thousands of flight delays leading up to the 2023 July Fourth holiday cost it 1 point of profit margin for the entire quarter.

FlightAware utilizes AI models to produce precise predictive datasets. Applying highly accurate arrival times an hour to two hours from the actual arrival, airlines can optimize their operations stemming from the resulting improved efficiencies and minimized disruptions. Subsequently, delay impacts are reduced, and passenger satisfaction improved.

About our Expert

Jan Uphues

Jan Uphues

Marketing Manager

From the exhilarating rush of his very first flight, Jan Uphues was captivated by the world of aviation. Though that maiden voyage had its jittery moments, it set the course for a lifelong passion. While most kids dreamt of taking to the skies as pilots, Jan found his true calling at INFORM in 2018. Trading wings for words, he discovered a love for crafting compelling online content that surpasses even his ardor for flying.