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I am looking at some data form the BTS and trying to understand some spikes in month to month Volume delays. From my understanding a Volume delay is due to the volume of airplanes, causing the ATC to manage more take offs and landings and therefore slowing down the whole process.

My problem is that for volume delays bts only provides monthly aggregates. So I have data with a spike for Volume but the number of flights on that same month is normal or sometimes less than average. So I am assuming that something is happening at the daily level that is completely lost in the aggregation.

This all boils down to my question. If we where to quantify the capacity of the airspace around say ORD and call it X and on average the airspace is occupied with N planes, such that N < X and airspace is operating at N/X capacity.

On days following mass delays or large number of cancellations, does the amount of planes in the airspace increase to alleviate the pressure of passengers who are behind schedule? or does the load factor simply increase?

For examples say that on average airspace at ORD operates at 75% capacity, then one day you have some event that causes a lot of delays and cancellations. Do the following days operate at say 90% airspace capacity to help relive that congestion? or do they still operate the same number of planes but those planes are simply almost guaranteed to be full.

All summed up, would a spike in delays for some reason other than plane volume result in a spike in volume delay in the following days as they deal with the extra passengers?

Sorry if this question is worded strange, I had a hard time putting it down in writing. If its unclear let me know and I'll try to clarify.

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    $\begingroup$ It seems more related to air travel than aviation. Doesn't it boil down to "Is there more passengers flying after a lot of flight cancellations -- If so, does than mean more flights or more passengers per flight?" $\endgroup$ – mins Mar 11 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks that is a much simpler way of working it and I didnt realize air travel was a thing. I will post it there $\endgroup$ – Marsenau Mar 11 '16 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @mins Seems perfectly on-topic here to me: it's a question about how the airlines manage flights, not a question seeking advice from a passenger's perspective. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Mar 12 '16 at 1:07
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I would say generally no, because there are only so many landing slots available at busy airports and airlines frequently substitute larger aircraft to clear up a passenger backlog.

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  • $\begingroup$ Had not thought of that. So a typical flight scheduled to be flown with a certain plane might get switched to a larger plane with more seats? In general would these planes require more spacing for take off and landing perhaps solving my mystery of increased volume delay with no increase in flight numbers? $\endgroup$ – Marsenau Mar 14 '16 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, essentially. Also the airline will regularly cancel domestic/short haul flights. Remember that there are only a fixed number of aircraft and airlines re already pretty good at utilising them efficiently - they don't just have a bunch of spares lying around most of the time. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Apr 11 '16 at 15:27

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