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During a recent trip to Delta’s headquarters in Atlanta, I was privileged to spend time with its in-house meteorology team – a 25-person group of experts that fully grok the ins and outs of how weather can impact air travel. That bunch, working in concert with Delta’s Digital Transformation and Information Technology groups, will soon launch its latest forecasting innovation just in time for winter.

While the airline has already stated that a dedicated Go Team of de-icers will go to extreme lengths – even sleeping on Delta One lie-flat seats overnight as storms bear down – to keep operations flowing, the meteorology team will be working stay as far ahead of impending weather as possible.

RDU Airport
As Delta’s technology improves, you should spend less time here trying to understand how weather will impact your flight (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

The new, interactive forecasting system will be used to help “track advancing weather data in one centralized location and better inform operations teams of how the airline is managing and monitoring irregular operations (IROPs).” Following a soft launch in mid-November for testing, the tool is scheduled to be put in place across the Delta system early next year.

With the staggering amount of data coming in each hour, the new tool ensures operations leaders have the latest information, even when sudden changes in forecast data occur. It also consolidates information from four different weather models into one unified platform specific to each airport and pushes out alerts if any inconsistencies are detected from new model updates.

The tool’s five-day forecast page also offers a daily weather synopsis of domestic and international regions, existing tropical systems and airports impacted by IROPs. Operational teams who receive the report will also be able view up to 72 hours of detailed hourly intervals of forecasted weather for hubs and major airports in the network.

airport crowd
Crowds like this are all too common right now when weather begins to stack up flight delays (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

So, how will all of this impact you, the traveler? We’re glad you asked.

In the future, the meteorology team plans to incorporate real-time weather monitoring and airport-specific information for all airports within the Delta network into the new tool. While a timeline hasn’t been confirmed, Delta does intend to “include integration into alerts for customers as well as direct use by customer service agents and other frontline employees to keep them updated on weather changes.”

Currently, the process of trying to forecast whether or not a weather system will impact one’s travel is stressful and fraught with uncertainty. In my experience, it involves peering at a radar on a weather app, extrapolating how fast the system is moving, staring at an expected departure time and then checking the status of the inbound aircraft.

I’d much prefer a world where I knew Delta’s in-house team was monitoring all of that for me, far more accurately than I ever could, sending me useful alerts when weather patterns change and may impact my travel one way or the other. I’d love it even more if it would automatically serve up alternative routes, earlier flights or options for flying to a nearby airport paired with a Lyft to get me to my ultimate destination. That part, of course, is just wishful thinking for now, but if Delta’s savviness on the innovation side continues to trend in its current direction it may not be farfetched.

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