Press Releases

Schumer Releases Report Detailing Over $40 Billion in Costs of Flight Delays To Passengers, Airlines, and U.S. Economy As Memorial Day Travel Season Approaches

May 22 2008


Joint Economic Committee Examined Over 10 Million Individual Flight Records for 2007 from the Department of Transportation

JEC Findings Show Severe Impact of Flight Delays Such as Lost Traveler Productivity, Higher Fuel and Maintenance Expenses for Airlines, Missed Family Vacations, and Increased Pollution

Americans Faced 320 Million Hours of Delays in 2007, Passengers Spent 20% of Flight Time in Delays; Airport by Airport Analysis Shows Average Delays Are Widespread Coast-to-Coast

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) joined by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Vice Chair of the JEC, released a report today showing that flight delays in 2007 cost the economy a total of $41 billion.  In the report, entitled “Your Flight Has Been Delayed Again:  Flight Delays Cost Passengers, Airlines, and the U.S. Economy Billions in 2007,” the JEC used over 10 million individual flight records from the Department of Transportation to show that delays are costly to passengers, airlines, and the economy.  With the number of domestic flights increasing over 40 percent in the last two decades, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forecasting that U.S. air travelers will grow from more than 689 million passengers in 2007 to more than 1.1 billion in 2025, these severe economic costs will likely grow as well.

Schumer said, “It has been apparent for far too long that to millions of Americans who fly, our domestic air travel system is broken and today’s Joint Economic Committee report puts a dollar figure on this mess.  In 2007 alone passengers, airlines, and our economy felt a $41 billion punch in the gut from flight delays and the problem is only going to get worse.  Passengers were delayed by 320 million hours last year, and with the summer travel season being kicked off with Memorial Day, delays and the costs of those delays will only go up. ” 

Maloney said, “Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer travel season, but, as this JEC report shows, Americans may not find the skies so friendly in the days and months ahead.  Instead, airline travelers will likely face another summer of headache-causing delays.  In addition to shelling out more of their hard-earned money for higher fares and fees as airlines grapple with rising fuel costs, passengers are expected to waste a staggering $12 billion of their valuable time on delayed flights.  Given the cost to consumers, the economy and the environment, it’s clear that air traffic reforms are overdue after eight long years of inaction by this do-nothing Administration.”

Key findings from the JEC report, “Your Flight Has Been Delayed Again: Flight Delays Cost Passengers, Airlines, and the U.S. Economy Billions in 2007”:

• The total cost of domestic air traffic delays to the U.S. economy was as much as $41 billion for 2007 including higher airline operating costs, lost passenger productivity and time, and losses to other industries.

• Delayed flights consumed about 740 million additional gallons of jet fuel totaling $1.6 billion extra in fuel bills. 

• Passengers were delayed by a total of 320 million hours, when accounting for padding in airline schedules.  Almost 20 percent of total domestic flight time in 2007 was wasted in delay

• Flight delays were longest during summer vacation months. Flight delays during the months of June, July and August averaged approximately 414,000 total hours of delay per month. Flights during December – the height of holiday traveling – totaled almost 438,000 hours of delay.

• Seventy-eight percent of flight delays in 2007 occurred before take-off, with 58 percent at the gate, and 20 percent during the taxi to the runway.

• 94 percent of all flight delays were caused by other flights arriving late, national system delays, or air carrier delays (less than six percent of delays were due to security or extreme weather)

The report found that flights to and from the 35 largest U.S. airports accounted for about half of the total passenger delays, even though flights in and out of these airports accounted for only 33 percent of the flights in the study. Those passengers departing from airports in the Northeast and Midwest experienced the most delays.

The JEC report also contains an airport-by-airport analysis of the total delay hours at top U.S. airports, which confirms that the majority of flight delay hours occur at the largest airports in the country.

·       From that table, we can see that the three largest airports in the New York City area, JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports had a total of over 40 million passengers last year. 

·       The New York City area airports combine for more than 27 million hours of passenger delays.

·       And the average per-passenger delay at these three airports is nearly 28 minutes – among the highest in the nation.   


The full report and the technical appendix can be found at

The charts from Chairman Schumer's press conference releasing the report can be found here.

Interactive Map Detailing Average Delays at Major U.S. Airports

(Click on an airplane for the average minutes of delay at each airport)


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