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FiveThirtyEight Answers Age-Old Question of “Which Flight Will Get You There Fastest?”

FiveThirtyEight Answers Age-Old Question of “Which Flight Will Get You There Fastest?”
Joe Cortez

Analyzing 6 million domestic flights in the U.S., big data group FiveThirtyEight helps flyers determine the quickest routes.

Could big data be the solution to delayed flights and late arrivals? Data-crunching website FiveThirtyEight believes it could be, and it’s not afraid to put it on display. On Wednesday, FiveThirtyEight debuted its latest interactive tool — “Which flight will get you there fastest?

The interactive tool displays the fastest direct flights between any two airports in the U.S. With the new tool, flyers can input their origin and destination and immediately see the overall performance of every airline flying the route.

This performance information comes from a number of sources, including the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The interactive tool analyzes how much time is spent in the air and how much time is added by ground crews at the airport.

According to founder and FiveThirtyEight editor Nate Silver, the problem with the current reliability model is that there are many gray areas in how data is collected. Although delays and cancellations are self-reported and sorted into one of five categories, the root cause of the delay can be manipulated.

“We need a better way to measure airline performance, one that adjusts for the routes the airlines fly and doesn’t allow for any gaming of the data,” Silver wrote on the FiveThirtyEight website. “Sure, it’s not easy to fly out of O’Hare, but is that enough to redeem United and American?”

In a separate post outlining the methodology, the FiveThirtyEight explains their analysis takes into account many different situations, including regional airlines operating on behalf of larger airlines and flights that are ultimately diverted. The goal of the interactive tool is to determine true operating efficiency among America’s major airlines.


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