Detailed Justification for Air Transportation Statistics

Detailed Justification for Air Transportation Statistics

FY 2008 Request: $4,219,000
FTE: 19


RITA/BTS collects and publishes a variety of data about the operations of foreign and U.S. domestic airlines. The primary purpose of the program is to provide Congress, DOT, and other Federal agencies with uniform and comprehensive aviation data that are accurate, timely, and relevant for use in making aviation policy decisions and administering aviation-related programs.  DOT program uses of BTS airline data include the Airport Improvement program, Essential Air Service, monitoring the performance of the air transportation industry, and conducting status evaluations at both the individual airline and at industry levels, as well as conducting International Negotiations of air service agreements.  The use and visibility of this airline data collection, which was originally mandated to enable oversight of airline competition, has grown the past five years as airlines and their markets have increased in complexity and competitiveness.

Without the RITA/BTS airline data, such as the Form 41 Reports, important DOT programs, such as the FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) would be unable to rely upon the BTS Form 41 traffic data to distribute billions of dollars, annually, to airports.  In order to distribute the airport monies, the FAA would have to develop an alternative mechanism to allocate the AIP funds to the airports.  Similarly, the Office of the Secretary has several important mission-critical airline programs that would be severely impacted without RITA/BTS airline data, including its International program which relies upon the Form 41 data for international negotiations, grants of authority to airlines and other purposes.  Also, without the RITA/BTS On-Time Flight Performance and Flight Delay data that are published monthly by DOT, important gaps in the public understanding of flight delays would be the result; airlines and airports would lack data on their standing in relationship to the flight performance rankings of other airlines and airports.  In brief, absence of RITA/BTS airline data would be an impact to Congress and industry.

FY 2007 Base

The Air Transportation Statistics Program collects, processes, and regularly releases/disseminates airline data from four primary data collections: On-Time Flight Performance (including causes of delays), domestic and international passenger and freight traffic, passenger ticket information, and airline financial and employment information.  This air passenger itinerary and fare information is disseminated on the BTS website and directly from BTS as datasets and reports.  The program also provides specialized reports for DOT and other Government agencies that they require in fulfilling their legislative mandates.

BTS collects and disseminates airline financial, traffic, performance and operational data from 150 U.S. airlines.  Traffic data to and from the United States are collected and disseminated from 135 foreign air carriers that operate air service to the United States.  Annually, BTS collects over 8,000 reports from U.S. and foreign airlines.  Besides collecting and disseminating airline data, BTS continues to enhance its airline data edit and validation procedures in order to maintain a high level of data quality for DOT decision-makers. 

Anticipated FY 2007 Accomplishments

  • Release traffic data monthly covering total monthly air passenger enplanements for the industry, airline rankings by air passenger enplanements, traffic volume, revenue miles, available seat miles, load factors and trip lengths.
  • Release domestic operating profit and loss data quarterly for individual airlines and by carrier groups (e.g. majors, low cost carriers); airline domestic unit costs; and revenue yield.
  • Release on-time performance data monthly, providing the overall on-time arrival and departure performance of airlines, airports, and specific flights.
  • Provide data monthly on causes of flight delays, characterized in five categories: Air Carrier, Extreme Weather, National Aviation System (NAS), Late-arriving aircraft and Security.
  • Maintain and operate the Airline Reporting and Data Information System (ARDIS) data processing environment.
  • Consistent with E-GOV goals, worked toward developing and implementing a pilot program to enable air carriers to file their financial, operational, and traffic data reports with BTS using a more efficient electronic means (Web-filing), improving data processing efficiency and reducing reporting burden on the industry.  Achieved electronic filing of selected air carrier financial data in FY06 in an initial pilot program, and plan to expand the Web e-filing program to encompass additional airline electronic filings covering a broader spectrum of their data in FY07 and FY08.
  • Develop and implement enhancements to the processing system for data validation, improving the edit logic or “business rules” to maintain a high level of airline data quality.
  • Continue enhancing the IT systems for airline data processing, within available resources.  Continue the improvements to the “Production” airline data server and the “Developmental” server that (together with a “fail-over” server to avoid airline data production losses in the event of an IT system failure) were deployed in FY06 and planned for FY07 in order to better accommodate Web-filing and foster the development of other airline data collection and data-edit improvements. 

FY 2008 Budget Request

In FY 2008, the Air Transportation Statistics Program will continue the maintenance and operation of the existing airline data collections, ensuring high quality data and maintaining a steady state production of accurate, timely and relevant outputs.  RITA/BTS plans to continue to expand the coverage of its pilot Web-Filing project to include additional airlines and additional databases that can benefit from the advances implemented in electronically filing airline data.  BTS will also continue with the implementation of its total quality management program, improving the integrity of its airline data systems, and ensuring data consistency across data systems and across all the historical years of data collection.  In addition, the program will continue planning and implementation of an airline data modernization program in partnership with other DOT organizations.

The funding request for this program is $4,219,000 from the FAA Operations account for sustaining the collection, processing, quality assurance, and dissemination of the data described in the above sections. This funding is critical, because without this funding, there would be no airline data for 2008 and it would be much more expensive to resume the program in one or another form at a later date. Without current airline data, DOT would not be able to analyze the data for the Secretary on a routine basis or provide ad-hoc analysis on very tight time lines when special occasions (such as emergencies during a major air accident) require it.  That in turn impacts the ability of the Department to have a complete picture of the airline industry and make decisions based on quality data. In the same vein, the FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) would not have current data to make decisions on the distribution of billions of dollars to airports.  Also, industry would lose the data they had come to depend on for market and service improvement analysis and RITA/BTS would not have the ability to provide airline industry data to Congress or the White House when such requests are made.  The public would have no access to information regarding the airline industry either in the form of the Air Travel Consumer Report released monthly by DOT or through the web site managed by RITA/ BTS.  

IT Investment: The IT investment costs for the air program total $1.859 million and includes 4.0 FTEs. These funds cover the RITAX008: BTS Mid Tier Server/Airline Report Data Information System ($0.659 million and includes 2.0 FTEs), and the air portion of BTS’ data warehouse RITAX004: Intermodal Transportation Database that supports OST airline decision-makers ($1.2 million and includes 2.0 FTEs).