Grounded: How many flights actually make it to their destination on time?

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An FAA tech meltdown sent the air travel world into chaos on Wednesday, with well over 10,000 flights delayed or canceled by 6pm ET.

The source was said to be a damaged database file (we know the feeling) that impacted the Notice To Air Mission system, which alerts pilots to conditions that could affect their flight and is obviously pretty important, causing the first nationwide air traffic suspension in the US for more than 20 years.

Canceled flight club

Flight delays and cancelations have been a bit of a running theme through headlines in the last month. Indeed, 2023 got off to a turbulent start across the aviation industry and Southwest Airlines customers had a particularly torrid time over Christmas as the company struggled to adapt to winter weather.

Disruptions, as anyone who’s anxiously studied a departure board will tell you, are hardly an uncommon experience. Indeed, since 2018 just under 20% of all arrivals in the US were delayed or canceled, with a staggering ~42% of all arrivals for the month of April 2020 canceled as Covid-19 spread, more than double the 20% of flights that were canceled in the wake of 9/11.

Ancient systems seem to be a constant throughout the recent stoppages. Southwest's meltdown was blamed on inadequate software and the core system responsible for this week's disruptions is reportedly from the 1990s.

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