Friday, September 12, 2008

Airport Delays Today: You Could Look It Up ...

... and you should, because the television media sure aren't doing it for you.

The excitable Weather Channel has hyped so many storms that you often can't tell what to really expect. But from that source and from others today, it does appear as if a very bad thing is about to occur, with Galveston and Houston and the Louisiana coast in the path of a hurricane whose chief threat appears to be the tsunami-like sea surge it is pushing northward in the Gulf of Mexico.

But besides its live reports, the Weather Channel also offers information on matters such as airport delays, and my jaw dropped a few minutes ago when I saw the reports on the screen claiming that there are no delays at the major airports in the nation. The information was attributed to the F.A.A.

There's your first mistake, depending on the laughable live F.A.A. flight-delay data. The media keep referring people to the F.A.A. flight-delay map at -- which hasn't worked in a year.

But go online to a reliable source like and, whoa:

As of 10:30 Central time today, a stunning 566 flights had been canceled at Houston International Airport. That has the effect of reducing the official delay number (assuming the F.A.A. was publishing even that, which is isn't), because a canceled flight is not, of course, a delayed flight.

On the other hand, the crisis at Houston International (and crisis is the operative word) is creating massive problems now rippling into the other big hubs. Atlanta, for example, has a ground hold on traffic, with delays mounting. So go LaGuardia and O'Hare. And just wait till the ripple effect from the canceled Continental and Express Jet flights in Houston barrels into Continental's other major hub at Newark.

So I'd ignore the mainstream media if you need information on flying today. They're stuck in an old formula that looks at inaccurate information on flight delays, and simultaneously ignores the very different measure of flight cancellations. "Many flights were canceled today at O'Hare" is a piece of lame reportage that does you and me no good whatsoever.

Instead, go online to individual airline Web sites and sites like -- and keep in mind that it's going to be a real mess flying today, especially at hubs east of the Mississippi.

Oh, and by the way, a lot of people I know think the best online weather-report source is Weather Underground. I agree.

Update 12.30 p.m. EDT: Wait! Everything's up to date at! Somebody must have got a stern memo, because I see the F.A.A. "airport status and delays" site is finally up again, with live links. Click on the green light at Houston and it says of IAH: "General arrival/departure delays are 15 minutes or less." Of course, as noted above, that's because more than 550 flights have been canceled so far today at Houston.



Akash said...

Hey Joe - the Flightstats site has been functional all along I think. It may be inaccurate as for the stats, as you say, but it *has* been working - as long as you don't use Firefox. For some reason Firefox was broken but IE was working just fine.

Akash said...

Duh - I meant the website. Was broken on Firefox, but worked on IE.