FAA Air Traffic Program Saves $27 Million in Delays during First Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the midst of the second-worst year for flight delays, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched a software program in March 2007 that saved $27 million for the airlines and 1.1 million delay minutes for the airlines and the flying public in its first year of operation.

“This software pays an immediate dividend to passengers,” said Robert A. Sturgell, the FAA’s acting administrator. “When a plane can’t land because of weather, the software makes it possible for that slot to be filled automatically by another plane. This means that we’re able to get passengers where they want to go as soon as possible.”

Adaptive Compression works by scanning for airport arrival slots that would otherwise go to waste when a flight is cancelled, delayed or re-routed. Open slots are filled with the next available flight, minimizing passenger delays by maximizing operations at constrained airports.

When demand exceeds capacity at an airport or in the air, as often happens during severe summer storms, delay-reducing efforts such as Airspace Flow Programs (AFP) are put in place. AFPs allow the agency to manage traffic during storms with greater effectiveness and efficiency by targeting only those flights that are scheduled to fly through storms, issuing estimated departure times. However, slots go unused if flights are cancelled, delayed or re-routed, resulting in lost capacity or avoidable delays.

Adaptive Compression, which was developed in collaboration with the airlines, updates slot assignments without adding to controller workload. Controllers are automatically notified of open slots and the next available flights, rather than having to perform those functions manually.