Are Flight Delays Good for Airports?

from Midway Airport in Chicago after Governing's Managing Technology Conference in Seattle "It's not often that we're this busy at 8:30 in the evening." ...
by | June 4, 2008

from Midway Airport in Chicago after Governing's Managing Technology Conference in Seattle

Cancelled_flights "It's not often that we're this busy at 8:30 in the evening."

So said the manager of the bar in Chicago's Midway Airport where I waited on Friday night for a flight that was three hours late. The bar was bustling with people like me who were waiting for flights that should have already departed.

My turkey burger and lemonade set Governing back eleven bucks. Later, I paid $3 for a bottle of water. I nearly paid $6.95 for Wi-Fi access so that I could live blog the experience, except I wasn't willing to give my personal information to a company named Bongo or Dingo or Fungo or Pogo or something like that. By the end of the experience, I would gladly have paid $20 simply to never again have to hear the words, "Caution! The moving walkway is ending!"

All of which got me wondering: Do flight delays help airports financially? When people are trapped in airports, they have no choice but to start spending money. I only wanted a smoothie on my scheduled one-hour layover in Chicago, but when that turned into four hours I had to eat dinner. Airlines' on-time performance is worsening. Is that good news for airport finances?

The answer is probably not, at least not in the long-term. If fewer people decide to fly, airports will pay the price. More broadly, the woes of the airline industry are leading to mergers (and bankruptcies), which Moody's thinks will hurt airports by resulting in fewer flights.

So the next time you're suffering in some airport bar, you can at least take some solace that airport administrators are not getting any pleasure from your pain.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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