Solving Flight Disruptions: Why We Funded Pilota

Dorm Room Fund
Feb 12 · 2 min read

Dorm Room Fund is excited to announce our investment in Pilota, a company building a predictive analytics engine that uses machine learning to forecast flight disruptions. Pilota’s first product allows travel management companies to predict potential flight disruptions and proactively book backup flights for their clients for free.

Flight disruptions suck for everyone

We’ve all experienced the pain and frustration of having a flight get delayed or canceled. Your travel plans are thrown off, sometimes you’re forced to wait in a crowded terminal for hours, and other times you have to deal with overwhelmed airline agents. Flight disruptions have long been one of the most difficult and complex problems in the air travel industry. It’s not just annoying for travelers; for airlines, disruptions mean crew delays, missed connections, and a cascade effect leading to more late flights. An estimated 8% of airline revenue is lost to disruptions, which amounts to a staggering $60 billion worldwide.

Oftentimes, we associate flight disruptions with weather that is out of our control, but it turns out that this isn’t entirely true. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, only 5% of delayed flights are caused by extreme weather — 39% are caused by the previous flight arriving late, 30% by the air carrier (delays with crew, baggage, maintenance, fueling, etc.), and 24% attributable to the National Aviation System (preventable conditions with non-extreme weather, airport operations, traffic volume). This means that many flight disruptions are within human control and can be reduced by involved parties. At the same time, this also means that it’s possible to predict flight disruptions ahead of time, which opens the gate for travelers to proactively deal with disruptions.

Pilota: Proactively manage flight disruptions

As a licensed pilot, Cornell Tech master’s student Omer Winrauke wanted to explore how predictive analytics could improve the end-to-end flight operations process. Through Cornell Tech’s capstone Startup Studio program, Omer teamed up with fellow master’s students Saniya Shah, Cyrus Ghazanfar, and Kulvinder Lotay to research and build technology in the flight disruption management space. They built a…

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Written by Spencer Yen, Dorm Room Fund Partner (NYC). Follow him on Medium and Twitter.

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