How India-Pakistan tensions have disrupted air travel

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Reuters

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 26/04/2019

Credit: Simon Scarr, Marco Hernandez

Project description:

This project visualises the empty skies and costly detours made by international airlines following an air strike in late February by the Indian military in northern Pakistan. The disruption added flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.

The piece used flight tracking data to compare routes to previous days, visualised air traffic in the region, and gave granular information on delays.

Impact reached:

The piece revealed exactly what was happening in the skies above Pakistan and elsewhere in the region whereas other reports were referencing basic developments or headline figures of delays. The piece accompanied Reuters coverage of the ongoing story and was shared widely on social media.

Techniques/technologies used:

Coordinates of flight paths were plotted and sorted locally before being mapped in QGIS, then exported and taken into Illustrator to style. A range of maps were made, including an orthographic projection showing the northern hemisphere and every plane in the sky at a specific time. Dozens of flights were also analysed along with their departure and arrival times.

The page was made by placing a series of vector graphics on an HTML page and styled using CSS. An svg animation at the top of the page draws the reader in to the article.

What was the hardest part of this project?

There was a very large amount of analysing, sorting, and prioritising flights. Choosing the right data to structure the narrative around was a challenge. We had access to literally thousands of flights and each flight was made up of hundreds of coordinates.

What can others learn from this project?

Granular information can be visualised in a simple and clean way in order for readers to understand the narrative and key takeaways. Choosing to leave much of the art direction very subtle and basic allowed the flight paths and data to stand out.

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