Statistical characterization of airplane delays

Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 12;11(1):7855. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87279-8.


The aviation industry is of great importance for a globally connected economy. Customer satisfaction with airlines and airport performance is considerably influenced by how much flights are delayed. But how should the delay be quantified with thousands of flights for each airport and airline? Here, we present a statistical analysis of arrival delays at several UK airports between 2018 and 2020. We establish a procedure to compare both mean delay and extreme events among airlines and airports, identifying a power-law decay of large delays. Furthermore, we note drastic changes in plane delay statistics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, we find that delays are described by a superposition of simple distributions, leading to a superstatistics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't