US Airports: How Delays are Propagated and Magnified

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013


Technologically driven transport systems are characterized by a networked structure connecting operation centers and by a dynamics ruled by pre-established schedules. Schedules impose serious constraints on the timing of the operations, condition the allocation of resources and define a baseline to assess system performance. Here we study the performance of an air transportation system in terms of delays. Technical, operational or meteorological issues affecting some flights give rise to primary delays. When operations continue, such delays can propagate, magnify and eventually involve a significant part of the network. We define metrics able to quantify the level of network congestion and introduce a model that reproduces the delay propagation patterns observed in the U.S. performance data. Our results indicate that there is a non-negligible risk of systemic instability even under normal operating conditions. We also identify passenger and crew connectivity as the most relevant internal factor contributing to delay spreading.

FIG. 3. Clusters of congested airports. Maps of the congested airports showing also connections between them for days with: A) low, B) intermediate, and C) high level of congestion. The airport color codes are: red, congested airport belonging to the largest cluster; orange, congested airport not belonging to the largest cluster; green, airport not congested. Links connecting airports in the largest cluster are in red. In D), daily size of the largest cluster as a function of time. In E), complementary cumulative distribution of the size of the largest cluster (log-normal scale). And in F), Jaccard index comparing airports belonging to the largest clusters in consecutive days or consecutive ranking positions according to the top 20 days with largest or lowest average delay.

Download full report: Systemic delay propagation in the US airport network

About the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems
IFISC (Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems) is a joint research Institute of the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) created in 2007 building upon the former Cross-Disciplinary Physics Department of IMEDEA (Mediterranean Institute for Advance Studies) dating from 1995. Its creation foresees that important avenues of scientific development occur at the borders of established fields. As statement of purpose it aims at developing interdisciplinary and strategic research from the established practices of physicists.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Follow InfraUSA on Twitter Facebook YouTube Flickr


Show us your infra! Show us your infra!

Video, stills and tales. Share images of the Infra in your community that demands attention. Post your ideas about national Infra issues. Go ahead. Show Us Your Infra!  Upload and instantly share your message.

Polls Polls

Is the administration moving fast enough on Infra issues? Are Americans prepared to pay more taxes for repairs? Should job creation be the guiding determination? Vote now!


What do the experts think? This is where the nation's public policy organizations, trade associations and think tanks weigh in with analysis on Infra issues. Tell them what you think.  Ask questions.  Share a different view.


The Infra Blog offers cutting edge perspective on a broad spectrum of Infra topics. Frequent updates and provocative posts highlight hot button topics -- essential ingredients of a national Infra dialogue.