Visualizing 1M flight routes with CartoDB

Using CartoDB Deep Insights to visualize and analize flights data for 1M routes from FlightStats

Last week a friend asked on Twitter how to extract some data from Airline On-Time Performance Reports in a Tableau public dashboard. I replied back with some tricks using Tabula, when the raw data or a workbook aren't provided, and turned in.

While the data was interesting, it lacked location reference, thus eliminating the possibility of representing it on a map, not to mention further geospatial analysis. But the idea of visualizing it lived on.

Getting the data

Friday night, destroyed after a hard week. I got home, had some dinner, and started poking at FlightStats Developer Center. I grabbed a RedBull to stay awake, and wrote a script to get the rating for every route in a dataset from

I validated the visualization with a sample of flights departing from Barcelona, with a very simple line visualization: a color ramp corresponding to a 5 star scale (red for 1, green for 5).

Several hours, a couple of "Authorization failed. usage limits are exceeded", and different API keys later I had the data.

Explore and analyze

Fast forward to this week. We've been working on some new and shiny stuff at CartoDB that has just been presented at MWCCartoDB for Deep Insights. I had the data ready, so I uploaded it to CartoDB, and created my first Deep Insights dashboard within a couple of minutes. BOOM.

A quick look at the visualization and I can start uncovering stories.

We're continuously working to improve this, so any feedback is welcomed. Go ahead and play with the data. I'm not sure it can be published but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You can check the code in GitHub.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Data Scientist, just some guy who knows how to put together a script in Ruby and happens to work at CartoDB. I really, really, really got inspired by this post to share the visualization. I usually tinker a lot but never end up sharing anything because I'm too critical with the results, so please be kind.

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