US Domestic Flight Lengths

Last time, I looked at the distribution of commercial flights. My perspective is that for short trips, alternatives to flying would be preferable, but it seems these short flights are pretty common.

Again, this is using data from OpenFlights which has over 60,000 flights, of which 10677 (16%) have US as the source and destination. As a comparison, I looked at flights within two similarly sized countries, China (10% of total flights) and Brazil (2% of total flights), as well as within continental Europe (18% of total flights). The distance of the flight is calculated based on the airport latitude and longitude, which isn’t actually the distance flown, but is the useful data when comparing flying with other options. I’m doing the analysis with Python Pandas.

Distribution of flight distances, for all data and US flights.
Distribution of flight distances, for all data and US flights.

The primary observation is that the US constitutes 21% of short flights, even though in this data set 16% of total flights are intra-US. However, US flight lengths are going to be truncated at earlier point than the total data which includes international flights, since the US is smaller than the world. So, I wanted to make a comparison between US flight distributions and three similarly sized areas.

Europe is generally regarded as having an effective rail system, and its proportion of short flights is indeed lower; intra-European flights are 18% of total flights, and 18% of short flights are intra-European.

China has even fewer short flights: Intra-Chinese flights compose only 5% of the total short flights even though 10% of total flights are intra-China. On the other hand, the Brazil distribution more closely resembles the US distribution: Intra-Brazil flights compose 3% of short flights and 2% of total flights.

So in conclusion, I don’t think the US has dramatically more short flights proportionally than the global data set, but it certainly has more than China! Interesting!

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