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AMERICAN airlines are showing up on time more often.”During the first 10 months of 2012,” the Boston Globe reports, “on-time arrival rates at US airports were the highest they have been since 2003.” The best on-time performance in almost a decade should be reason for celebration. But what have airlines done to make the schedules click a bit better?
The Globe cites a fascinating example in JetBlue, which operates most of its flights between some of America’s most crowded airports, including Boston Logan, Washington-DCA, Washington Dulles, and both JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York. JetBlue’s on-time performance, consequently, is among the worst in the industry.
But the airline came up with a clever way of improving its position—and one other airlines should imitate.
JetBlue decided that not all of its passengers had to be seated before it closed its planes’ cabin doors. Most flyers, who are used to having to be in their seats before the doors are closed, probably thought the Federal Aviation Administration demanded it. That’s not the case, apparently—and it’s surprising that more airlines are not following JetBlue’s lead. The airline shaved four minutes off every flight—an eternity when you’re making short hops between Boston and New York—allowing it to add an extra plane per day, and boosting its on-time performance to 80% up to the end of October, up from 71% over the same period last year.
Alaska Airlines, which like its outside-the-lower-48 cousin Hawaiian Airlines, often leads on-time performance rankings, has a “rigorous set of rules” to ensure everything moves smoothly, the Globe explains:
Ramp workers must be in position 10 minutes before an arrival, ready to unload bags and load up the next flight. One minute after the plane taxis to the gate, a mechanic arrives and the passenger door opens. At the five-minute mark, the cleaning crew has to be on the jet bridge. If the bags are not on the carousel in 20 minutes, every passenger receives a $20 voucher. There are also on-time incentives for Alaska Airlines employees. For every month the carrier hits its goals, each of its 10,000 employees gets $50.
These are all excellent ideas, and worth sharing. The whole Globe story is worth a read. Meanwhile, Friday night featured another reminder of how safe air travel in the United States has become: an American Airlines jet had an engine fail, but returned to the airport and made a successful emergency landing. Improving on-time performance is great news. But American carriers’ continued excellent safety record is worth even more applause. Cheers.
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