3,000 flight cancellations cost U.S. $94 million last week; $3.5b in 2013

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Transportation,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Air Traffic Controllers,Air Travel,Trade

The bad weather that cancelled some 3,000 flights last weekend as the heavy rains in California swept through the Midwest and dropped snow on the East, cost the U.S. economy $94.8 million, according to a new travel industry study.

Worse: Economists at the U.S. Travel Association armed with a new cost calculator said that weather-related cancellations robbed the economy of $3.5 billion in 2013.

Officials told Secrets that cancelling just one domestic flight for weather-related reasons costs $31,600 in passengers’ lost economic activity, a combination of their flight cost plus what they would spend on the ground after landing.

"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," said U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow. "Obviously, Mother Nature cannot be controlled. 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 example, Dow said modernizing airports and air traffic control equipment could help reduce flight delays and cancellations in bad weather. Adding runways and parking areas would also help.

Even tiny delays cost money, said USTA. The group, an influential lobbying outfit in Washington, said that merely delaying a flight one hour costs the economy an average of $3,300 in passenger-related economic activity.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.