Weather conditions and airports

Weather conditions and airports

Weather events are one of the biggest cause of delays at airports and also one of the most challenging. Weather delays always have a cost, for airports, airline and passengers.

These range from increased crew, fuel and maintenance for airports and airlines, to lost time, missed connections and hospitality costs for passengers.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) suggest that weather can account for 50 per cent of all aircraft delays, depending on the month of the year and prevailing conditions experienced within a year.

The complexities of weather forecasting and weather management mean that airports must be able to effectively quantify weather events and determine their significance upon performance.

All flight delays caused by weather conditions are largely out of the airport and the airline’s control.

Recent years have seen an increase in severe weather events as a result of global climate change. Scientists predict that this will only grow in significance into the future.

Measuring the impact of weather events on airport performance

When considering weather events and their impact on airport performance, it is useful to use a simple categorisation methodology such as the following suggested Borsky and Unterberger.
They classified weather conditions into “sudden” and “slow onset”.

Sudden weather events occur with little warning and tend to feature for a short period within a given day. Sudden weather events include elements like wind, tornadoes, precipitation, thunderstorms and heavy fog.

Slow onset weather events are those that develop during the course of a day and follow a trend before reaching an extreme. Slow onset events would be changes in temperature leading to frost or extreme heat.

Analysing and understanding the delays caused by each type of sudden or slow onset weather event can assist airports and airlines to forecast the length of delay each one causes. Airports use sophisticated algorithms based on data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to do this.

Measuring airport performance in relation to weather

Airport performance, and how operators minimise the impact of weather delays, is complex.

Put simply though, we can consider that the significance of weather events on airport management depends on:

The airport’s ability to forecast weather events

How resilient the airport is to weather events

How it responds to weather events

Airports can utilise advanced information management tools to perform analysis of the above factors.

To begin with, an airport will understand the significant weather events that impact their location and may need to pay particular attention to those that their systems and staff are not necessarily very familiar with.

Then the airport will consider a range of factors to illustrate their own readiness for different types of significant weather events. Customised plans and checklists will be generated for each type of weather event, ranging from frequent to those that are rare but plausible. Further analysis will determine actions and best practice tools to refine readiness for significant weather events.

Throughout, the airport will be gathering data on the effects and costs of weather events over time. This can be used to prepare future readiness plans and to make investment decisions on how best to increase readiness for weather events based on frequency, significance cost and potential savings strategies.

Weather is a complex phenomenon and airports are complex places. Combined, this means that weather management strategies for airports are compounded in an enormous aggregation of data utilised to produce robust strategies. The descriptions above merely demonstrate an overview of how airports approach weather conditions and their impact upon its performance and costs. That’s where BEQ can assist, working with airports in partnership to utilise hugely sophisticated weather management tools.