Why does it seem like disruptions are happening more and more?

Why does it seem like disruptions are happening more and more?

Issue 7

It's not that it just seems like disruptions are happening more and more, they actually are increasing every year. As part of Jeppesen's continuing work in the area of disruption management, we analyzed airline performance over a four-year period from 2013 through 2016 and the results have been interesting. We started off by examining the number of disruptions worldwide.  For our purposes a “disruption” included: departure and arrival delays over 15 minutes, cancellations, and diversions.  While there is a fair amount of cyclical performance, the overall trend shows an 8% year over year (YOY) growth.


Peaks and Patterns

Next, we delved into the performance peaks, and discovered they have a distinct pattern, with spikes in occurrence during July and December. This pattern correlates to prime holiday travel seasons when additional flights are added to schedules, and there are increased chances for more severe weather.  We can see that disruptions during these periods are growing noticeably faster than the overall trend (8%) at 11% YOY.


Disruptions by Airline Size – 200+ Tails

We then wanted to examine the pattern of disruptions by operator size.  The figure below shows the growth rate for airlines with more than 200 tails.


At 6.6% it is below the overall average market growth trend.  This is interesting because airlines of this size generally have worldwide networks which one might expect to translate into continual disruption challenges.  While these airlines do tend experience more total disruptive events (250K on the vertical axis), they also possess a large amount of physical assets and personnel which they can engage to address and solve these events quickly.

Disruptions for Airlines with 75 – 199 Tails

This airline category tends to encompass national carriers that operate with a single hub, as well as specialty carriers like Low Cost and Ultra Low Cost. The following figure illustrates disruption growth rate from these airlines, which is higher than the overall average trend (8%) at 10%.


While there are fewer total disruptions for these carriers than for the 200+ operators (150K vs. 250K), the growth rate for disruptions is almost 3.5% higher.

Disruptions for Airlines with 20 – 74 Tails

We now can see a definite correlation between airline size and the YOY growth rate of disruptions. 


Again, even though the number of total disruptions is lower than the 75 – 199 tail segment (60K vs. 150K), the growth rate for disruptions is much higher. The obvious question from this discovery is “Why are smaller airlines experiencing disruption growth at a faster rate?”

Aviation is a complicated business.  Larger airlines have a greater exposure to potential disruptions, but they also have a greater amount of resources to address the situations faster.  The number of hubs, their locations, and quality of ground service providers can also play a role.  We do not believe there is one single answer, but no matter what the primary cause, Jeppesen will continue to study these trends and develop solutions for airlines to address them quickly and efficiently. To learn more about how Jeppesen can help your operations better identify and address disruptions, speak to your Jeppesen representative about OpsAdvisor.

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