Good news: Airlines are doing very well these days at getting to their destinations on time.
Things seem to be a far cry from the hell days back in 2006, when the government threatened massive intervention due to interminable delays and tarmac hostages.
But there’s more.
Airlines are building lots of extra “padding” into their schedules, making it much easier for them to hit their numbers. If you say a scheduled flight takes 7 hours, but it really only takes six, you should have no problem getting their on time.
A look at 50 different domestic flights on nine major airlines, including some regional-jet partners, found scheduled flights times were 17 minutes, or 10%, longer in airline schedules for this March compared to March 1996 schedules. I’ve kept those 1996 schedules on my bookshelf to make historical comparisons.The biggest percentage change was Delta Flight 1323, an 8:55 a.m. milk run from Atlanta to Orlando on a Boeing 757 that is scheduled for 103 minutes. That’s 39% longer than Delta Flight 265, a Boeing 767 that departed Atlanta at 8:50 a.m. in 1996 and was scheduled for only 74 minutes.
In the end, this nonsensical obsession with this statistic doesn’t help customers very much.
For travellers, it can seem like airlines are cheating. “If you leave late, you know you will arrive late. But now you leave late and arrive early,” said frequent traveller Steve Edmonds, who works for the city of Austin, Texas.
Mr. Edmonds was shocked when he recently flew from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas and arrived 55 minutes early. “My first thought was they are padding to make their on-time ratings better,” he said. His shock turned to excitement when he realised he could catch an earlier connection to Austin. Then excitement boiled into frustration when the plane sat waiting for an empty gate. “From a customer standpoint, the most realistic schedule would make the most sense,” he said.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.