The Covid19 pandemic had, and unfortunately still have, a significant impact on most of the major industries. While for some sectors, the impact was positive (such as online retails, internet and steaming providers, etc.), it was negative for others (such as transportation, tourism, entertainment, etc.). In both cases, we can leverage time series modeling to quantify the effect of the Covid19 on the sector.
One simplistic approach for quantifying the impact of the pandemic (whether it is positive or negative) would include the following steps:
- Split the series into pre-covid and post-covid
- Train a time series model with the pre-covid data. This would enable us to simulate the value of the series if there was no pandemic
- Using the trained model to forecast the horizon of the post-covid series
- Use the difference between the forecast and actual (post-covid series) to quantify the Covid19 impact on the series
To demonstrate this approach, I will use the
sfo_passengers dataset from the sfo package. The
sfo_passengers dataset provides monthly statistics about the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) air traffic between July 2005 and September 2020. More details about the dataset available in the following post and vignette.
For this analysis, we will use the following packages:
sfo– the passenger air traffic data
dplyr– data prep
plotly– data visualization
TSstudio– time series analysis and forecasting
library(sfo) library(dplyr) library(plotly) library(TSstudio)
As mentioned above, the
sfo_passengers dataset provides monthly statistics about the air passenger traffic at SFO airport since 2005. That includes monthly information about the number of passengers by different categories such as operating airline, region, terminal, etc. Let’s load the data:
data("sfo_passengers") str(sfo_passengers) ## 'data.frame': 22576 obs. of 12 variables: ## $ activity_period : int 202009 202009 202009 202009 202009 202009 202009 202009 202009 202009 ... ## $ operating_airline : chr "United Airlines" "United Airlines" "United Airlines" "United Airlines" ... ## $ operating_airline_iata_code: chr "UA" "UA" "UA" "UA" ... ## $ published_airline : chr "United Airlines" "United Airlines" "United Airlines" "United Airlines" ... ## $ published_airline_iata_code: chr "UA" "UA" "UA" "UA" ... ## $ geo_summary : chr "International" "International" "International" "International" ... ## $ geo_region : chr "Mexico" "Mexico" "Mexico" "Mexico" ... ## $ activity_type_code : chr "Enplaned" "Enplaned" "Enplaned" "Deplaned" ... ## $ price_category_code : chr "Other" "Other" "Other" "Other" ... ## $ terminal : chr "Terminal 3" "Terminal 3" "International" "International" ... ## $ boarding_area : chr "F" "E" "G" "G" ... ## $ passenger_count : int 6712 396 376 6817 3851 3700 71 83 65 45 ...
Before we will convert the data into time series format, we will transform the
activity_period into a
df <- sfo_passengers %>% mutate(date = as.Date(paste(substr(sfo_passengers$activity_period, 1,4), substr(sfo_passengers$activity_period, 5,6), "01", sep ="/")))
Next, we will transform the dataset into a time series format by grouping the passenger by the
df <- df %>% group_by(date) %>% summarise(y = sum(passenger_count), .groups = "drop") head(df) ## # A tibble: 6 x 2 ## date y ##
## 1 2005-07-01 3225769 ## 2 2005-08-01 3195866 ## 3 2005-09-01 2740553 ## 4 2005-10-01 2770715 ## 5 2005-11-01 2617333 ## 6 2005-12-01 2671797
Now, we have a monthly time series:
plot_ly(data = df, x = ~ date, y = ~ y, type = "scatter", mode = "line", name = "Total Passengers") %>% add_segments(x = as.Date("2020-02-01"), xend = as.Date("2020-02-01"), y = min(df$y), yend = max(df$y) * 1.05, line = list(color = "black", dash = "dash"), showlegend = FALSE) %>% add_annotations(text = "Pre-Covid19", x = as.Date("2018-09-01"), y = max(df$y) * 1.05, showarrow = FALSE) %>% add_annotations(text = "Post-Covid19", x = as.Date("2021-08-01"), y = max(df$y) * 1.05, showarrow = FALSE) %>% layout(title = "Total Number of Air Passengers - SFO Airport", yaxis = list(title = "Number of Passengers"), xaxis = list(title = "Source: San Francisco Open Data Portal"))As can be observed in the plot above, the Covid19 effect is well pronounced since March 2020. To quantify the effect of the pandemic on the number of passengers, we will split the series into the following two series:
- Pre-Covid19 series- all observations prior to March 2020
- Post-Covid19 series- all observations post (include) to March 2020
We will use the Pre-Covid19 series to train a time series model. That will enable us to forecast the number of passengers as if there was no pandemic.
pre_covid <- df %>% dplyr::filter(date < as.Date("2020-03-01")) %>% dplyr::arrange(date) post_covid <- df %>% dplyr::filter(date >= as.Date("2020-03-01")) %>% dplyr::arrange(date)
We will use the
pre_covid series to train a time series model. That will enable us to forecast the number of passengers as there was no pandemic. Once we forecast the corresponding observations of the
post_covid series with the
pre_covid data, we could quantify the impact of the Covid19 on the total number of passengers.
Analyzing the data
Before we forecast the series, let’s run a quick exploratory analysis on the series to identify its main characteristics. We will use the TSstudio package to visualize the
pre_covid series. Note that the package does not support, yet, the
tsibble object. Therefore, we will convert the series into a
ts object first:
ts.obj <- ts(pre_covid$y, start = c(2005, 7), frequency = 12)
The series before the outbreak of the pandemic:
ts_plot(ts.obj, title = "Total Number of Air Passengers - SFO Airport", Ytitle = "Number of Passengers", slider = TRUE)
Like most series that describes monthly air passenger traffic, the series has a strong monthly seasonal pattern and a positive trend. You can also notice that the seasonal component’s oscillation has become larger since 2017 (compared to previous years). Let’s use the
ts_seasonal function to create a seasonal plot of the series:
ts_seasonal(ts.obj = ts.obj, type = "all")
As can see in the seasonal plot, the monthly seasonal effect kept overtime while the series continue to grow from year to year.
Similarly, we can review the series correlation with its past lags using the ACF and PACF functions:
ts_cor(ts.obj = ts.obj, lag.max = 36)
And as expected, we can see strong correlation between the series and the first and seasonal lags. We will leverage this information to select time-series models for seasonal data.
Forecast the Pre-Covid19 series
One of my favorite forecasting strategies is a combination of horse racing between different time series models and backtesting as a training approach. Backtesting is the time series equivalent of the machine learning cross-validation training approach. The idea here is simple - test each model with backtesting, and select the one that performed best, on average, on the different testing partition.
train_model function from the TSstudio package enables us to apply this strategy seamlessly using models from the forecast and stats packages. For simplicity, we will use different flavors of
Holt-Winters models and out-of-the-box
tslm models. For the backtesting, we will split the series into 6 testing partitions, each 12 months spaced by 3 months from each other.
methods argument defines the models to use and the
train_method argument defines the setting of the backtesting. Can find more details about the function here.
methods <- list(ets1 = list(method = "ets", method_arg = list(opt.crit = "lik"), notes = "ETS model opt.crit=lik"), ets2 = list(method = "ets", method_arg = list(opt.crit = "amse"), notes = "ETS model opt.crit=amse"), ets3 = list(method = "ets", method_arg = list(opt.crit = "mse"), notes = "ETS model opt.crit=mse"), auto_arima = list(method = "auto.arima", notes = "Auto ARIMA"), hw1 = list(method = "HoltWinters", method_arg = NULL, notes = "HoltWinters Model"), hw2 = list(method = "HoltWinters", method_arg = list(seasonal = "multiplicative"), notes = "HW with multip. seasonality"), tslm = list(method = "tslm", method_arg = list(formula = input ~ trend + season), notes = "tslm with trend and seasonal")) train_method = list(partitions = 6, sample.out = 12, space = 3)
After we defined the methods and
train_method arguments we will use the
train_model function to train the models. Note that the forecast horizon is set the the length of the
post_covid series. In addition we will set the
MAPA as the error metric to evaluate the performance of the different models on the testing partitions:
md <- train_model(input = ts.obj, methods = methods, train_method = train_method, horizon = nrow(post_covid), error = "MAPE") ## # A tibble: 7 x 7 ## model_id model notes avg_mape avg_rmse `avg_coverage_80%` `avg_coverage_95%` ##
## 1 hw1 HoltWinters HoltWinters Model 0.0277 149046. 0.792 0.958 ## 2 ets2 ets ETS model opt.crit=amse 0.0284 161754. 0.792 0.972 ## 3 hw2 HoltWinters HW with multip. seasonality 0.0300 171702. 0.528 0.847 ## 4 ets1 ets ETS model opt.crit=lik 0.0307 173337. 0.833 0.958 ## 5 ets3 ets ETS model opt.crit=mse 0.0311 174238. 0.861 0.972 ## 6 auto_arima auto.arima Auto ARIMA 0.0334 184381. 0.597 0.889 ## 7 tslm tslm tslm with trend and seasonal 0.0370 223194. 0.569 0.75
Based on the
leaderboard table from the
train_model function, the model that performed best on average on the different testing partitions is the Holt-Winters model (first version -
hw1). The model achieved, on average, the lowest MAPE (2.76%) and RMSE (149046) compared to the other models which evaluated. In addition, the model achieved a close to perfect coverage of the model prediction intervals with an average coverage of 79.2% and 95.8% for the 80% and 95% prediction interval, respectively. We can review the error distribution across the different partitions for each model with the
plot_model enables us to animate the forecasted values of each model on the different testing partitions of the backtesting:
We will select the Holt-Winters model (
hw1) to calculate the Covid19 effect. We will add the selected forecast to the
post_covid$yhat <- as.numeric(md$forecast$hw1$forecast$mean) post_covid$upper95 <- as.numeric(md$forecast$hw1$forecast$upper[,2]) post_covid$lower95 <- as.numeric(md$forecast$hw1$forecast$lower[,2])
Quantify the Covid19 impact
After we added forecasted values, it is straightforward to calculate the monthly impact of the Covid19 on the number of passengers at SFO airport:
post_covid$passengers_loss <- post_covid$y - post_covid$yhat post_covid ## # A tibble: 7 x 6 ## date y yhat upper95 lower95 passengers_loss ##
## 1 2020-03-01 1885466 4675574. 4860610. 4490537. -2790108. ## 2 2020-04-01 138817 4756550. 4963034. 4550066. -4617733. ## 3 2020-05-01 286570 5062504. 5288613. 4836395. -4775934. ## 4 2020-06-01 555119 5476241. 5720592. 5231889. -4921122. ## 5 2020-07-01 765274 5641839. 5903342. 5380336. -4876565. ## 6 2020-08-01 852578 5650253. 5928018. 5372488. -4797675. ## 7 2020-09-01 905992 4541560. 4834848. 4248272. -3635568.
And, the estimated total number of passengers decrease between March and September 2020 as result of the pandemic:
sum(post_covid$passengers_loss) ##  -30414705
Similarly, we can visualize the Covid19 effect on the air passenger traffic:
plot_ly() %>% add_ribbons(x = post_covid$date, ymin = post_covid$y, ymax = post_covid$yhat, line = list(color = 'rgba(255, 0, 0, 0.05)'), fillcolor = 'rgba(255, 0, 0, 0.6)', name = "Estimated Loss") %>% add_segments(x = as.Date("2020-02-01"), xend = as.Date("2020-02-01"), y = min(df$y), yend = max(df$y) * 1.05, line = list(color = "black", dash = "dash"), showlegend = FALSE) %>% add_annotations(text = "Pre-Covid19", x = as.Date("2017-09-01"), y = max(df$y) * 1.05, showarrow = FALSE) %>% add_annotations(text = "Post-Covid19", x = as.Date("2020-09-01"), y = max(df$y) * 1.05, showarrow = FALSE) %>% add_annotations(text = paste("Estimated decrease in", "
", "passengers volume: ~30M", sep = ""), x = as.Date("2020-05-01"), y = 2 * 10 ^ 6, arrowhead = 1, ax = -130, ay = -40, showarrow = TRUE) %>% add_lines(x = df$date, y = df$y, line = list(color = "#1f77b4"), name = "Actual") %>% layout(title = "Covid19 Impact on SFO Air Passenger Traffic", yaxis = list(title = "Number of Passengers"), xaxis = list(title = "Time Series Model - Holt-Winters", range = c(as.Date("2015-01-01"), as.Date("2021-01-01"))), legend = list(x = 0, y = 0.95))
Once we estimate the decrease in passengers’ number, we can quantify losses caused by the Covid19. For example, if each passenger on average pays $10 airport tax, then the estimated tax loss is about 300 Million USD for the specific period.
In addition, as the underline forecast is a point estimate. Therefore you can leverage the prediction interval to provide a range for the drop in air passenger traffic.
Last but not least, you can use a top-bottom approach and distribute the forecast for some of the available categories in the data. For example, the drop of passengers by
- Airline provider
- Domestic / International flights
More details about the packages and tools used on this post:
- Time series analysis:
- TSstudio package - https://github.com/RamiKrispin/TSstudio
train_modelfunction documentation - https://ramikrispin.github.io/TSstudio/reference/train_model.html
- Great explanation about backtesting from Uber Engineering blog - https://eng.uber.com/omphalos/
- Data visualization:
- plotly package - https://plotly.com/r/