Study: Severe Weather Costs Economy Millions in Travel Spending

Canceling one domestic flight for weather-related reasons costs the U.S. economy $31,600 in lost passenger spending, according to a new study from the U.S. Travel Association. The most recent winter storm, it found, caused airlines to cancel approximately 3,000 flights, which translates to a total economic loss of $94.8 million.

“We are now able to quantify what all travelers have long known intuitively: there are real dollar costs associated with flight cancellations and delays caused by the weather,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “This data is just the latest indication that, as a country, we need to prioritize our infrastructure to make sure our economy can withstand these shocks to the system. More investments are, quite simply, essential.”

According to U.S. Travel’s research, it’s not just cancellations that are concerning: Every hour a flight is merely delayed, it found, costs the U.S. economy an average of $3,300 in passenger-related economic activity.

All told, U.S. Travel reports, the direct economic impact of flight cancellations and delays cost the economy $3.5 billion in 2013.

Modernizing airports and air traffic control equipment could help, according to Dow. For example, he said, NextGen technology allows pilots and air traffic controllers to land planes using GPS navigation, rather than radar and plain-sight, therefore reducing flight delays and cancellations caused by poor visibility. Additional runways, aprons and deicing facilities, meanwhile, can increase the number of airplanes that can land and take off in poor weather conditions, including snowstorms.

“Obviously, Mother Nature cannot be controlled,” Dow concluded. “But there are things we can do to mitigate the cost to the economy — improvements to our infrastructure that would make weather events far less disruptive to our air travel system.”

For a recap of last week's top stories, check out MeetingNews Minute:

> Watch More Videos