Ray Harris, founder of Fredricton-based data analysis company DataWazo, was stuck in the middle of flight cancellations, trying to travel from Fredericton to Toronto, which prompted him to use his data skills to document the ongoing impacts of delays and cancellations at Canadian airports.
A few weeks ago Harris had booked a flight to Toronto to see grandmother and his wife’s friend, the couple were also travelling with their three-year-old. That flight was cancelled about eight hours before departure and they were offered a flight the next day, but with a three-hour layover in Montreal, versus their original direct route. The family declined that option but that replacement flight also ended up being cancelled. It’s from that “blind rage" from the travel experience that the DataWazo flight statistics project was created.
“I thought, I’ll channel my anger the only way I know how, which is data visualization, and here we are,” Harris told Yahoo Canada.
Looking at the data on the DataWazo site on Thursday, in the past full week, 51 per cent of domestic flights to Toronto Pearson International Airport were delayed, 12 per cent cancelled. A total of 41 per cent of flights were delayed to Montreal’s airport and 17 per cent were cancelled, in the same time frame. For domestic flights to Vancouver in the past full week, 40 per cent were delayed and four per cent were cancelled.
“It’s changed very little,...it's been pretty consistent,” Harris said about both the number of flight delays and cancellations he's seen since he started tracking, including looking at airports in Toronto and Montreal for 19 days now.
Through DataWazo’s interactive page, Canadians can filter by their departure city, airline and there is also an option to narrow down the scheduled flight time.
“So you can play around with those filters along the top and then after that, everything is clickable," Harris explained. "So if you want to click on a specific path, say from Ottawa to Calgary, you can click on that one and it will filter the rest of the dashboard to see the stats for that.”
'Atlantic Canada problem'
Looking at this data, Ray Harris has noticed that there is "an Atlantic Canada problem."
“I don't know what it is, but it exists, where if you filter down on the smaller airports in Atlantic Canada you will notice that our numbers are much higher than other places,” he said. “I would say the three selections that will likely get you the highest numbers are Air Canada flights, to Pearson or Montreal, from a smaller airport.”
For Harris’ home airport in Fredericton, 41 per cent of domestic flights, specifically to Toronto’s Pearson and Billy Bishop airports, Ottawa, and Montreal, have been delayed between June 23 and June 29, 14 per cent cancelled. From Fredericton to Pearson, 52 per cent of flights were delayed and 24 per cent cancelled, with 57 per cent of flights to Montreal delayed, 19 per cent cancelled.
As the expectation is that the number of travellers will increase this summer, historically a popular travel time, Harris intends to keep collecting this data.
“I think if things go back to a standard, or lower, two per cent cancellation, 10 per cent delay, or whatever the base metric is, and things are hunky dory, then maybe it will not be beneficial to keep it updated anymore, but the data collection part at least is automated at this point,” he said.
I'd imagine that any positive change might be negated by more people wanting to fly anyway and so, who knows how the summer’s going to go as a totality, but I'm not super optimistic.Ray Harris, Founder of Datawazo
Air Canada reacts to airport frustrations
On Wednesday, Air Canada sent a letter to customers informing them that many summer flights will be cancelled, an average of 77 round trips, or 154 flights a day in July and August.
"This surge in travel has created unprecedented and unforeseen strains on all aspects of the global aviation system," the message reads. "Around the world, there are recurring incidents of flight delays and airport congestion, resulting from a complex array of persistent factors impacting airlines and our partners in the aviation ecosystem."
"In response, we took a number of important steps, including introducing flexible ticket policies, new travel self-management tools, improvements to airport operations, as well adjustments to our schedule ‑ all to strengthen operational resiliency and to give customers more options. However, to bring about the level of operational stability we need, with reluctance, we are now making meaningful reductions to our schedule in July and August in order to reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate."