Flight arrival time just one click away

Bay Area fliers will soon be able to type in their trip’s airport, destination, airline and time to see how long their flight is likely to be delayed — even if it is still months away from takeoff.

A group of ex-Googlers in San Francisco conducted an extensive study of the nation’s weather along with federal airline and airport data. They found that the amount and extent of flight delays and cancellations is predictable based on weather history as well as airline and airport performance.

The company, WeatherBill, will launch a widget on its Web site this year that will serve as an air travel crystal ball. It will allow fliers to punch in the date and time of travel, start location, destination and airline they are using, and it will spit out the delay the passenger can expect, WeatherBill Vice President of Marketing Brenda Given said.

A Webwidget is a small program that a person can easily download and place on their Web site, blog or home page.

The group used decades of data from the National Weather Service and the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics for the research it will use for the Web site.

Dean Headley, co-author of the Airline Quality Rating, said that despite the study’s findings, he has his doubts about how accurate the system could be.

He said that while busy travelers would be interested in the delay predictions, leisure flyers would likely be willing to withstand a stronger likelihood of wait times if it meant a cheaper flight.

“It sounds like it’d be wonderful for those who travel a lot,” Headley said.

The WeatherBill study found what most Bay Area residents already know: There is a significantly greater chance of experiencing a weather-induced delay at San Francisco International Airport than Oakland or San Jose international airports.

Of the nation’s largest 59 airports, only Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport (50 minutes) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (46.9 minutes) averaged longer weather-related delay times than SFO (45.5 minutes) for arrivals during the winter months, according to the research.

During the winter rainy season, travelers at SFO can expect flight delays of 4.5 minutes for each inch of rainfall on takeoff, and 19 minutes per inch of rainfall on arrivals, the study found.

In addition to rain, the study measured how temperature affects delays. Higher temperatures are likely to raise delays in the spring and fall, while hotter-than-normal conditions actually reduce delays in the summer and winter at the Bay Area airports, the research team found.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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