Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013 @ 4:54 pm By

According to a recent story by USA Today, airlines are essentially fudging their flight schedule times to make it appear they are having more early arrivals or on-time flights.

According to the story, “One in five domestic flights on major airlines got to the arrival gate 15 minutes or more ahead of schedule in 2012” which has lead to “the highest early-arrival rate since the DOT began tracking arrival times in 1987.” This means that in 2012, “for the first time, more flights arrived early than were late, canceled or diverted.” Seems a little fishy huh? Well, that is because it is.

The story goes on to explain, “Scheduled flight times measure a trip from departure gate to arrival gate — not just how long a plane is in the air. The steady expansion of the times means that an “early” flight often takes longer than it once took.” This means that, “with the early arrival rate now exceeding 30% on more than 700 routes, and reaching as high as 65% on a few routes, some question whether airlines have padded schedules too much and are starting to cost themselves money and aggravate at least some passengers.” One reason why is that this apparent increase in early arrivals is negatively affecting connection times for travelers. As one traveler explained it, “Where the downside comes is if you’re trying to make a connection. You’re saying, if they were honest with the arrival time, I could make this earlier connection. But because they’ve got the fluff time, I have to wait two or three hours for a later connection.” So the airlines “shrink connection times from nearly an hour to as little as 30 minutes, in effect assuming that planes will arrive early and give transferring passengers more time than a schedule indicates.”

So the airlines might be making themselves look good on paper in the short term as they try to improve, though maybe erroneously, their on-time numbers. However, this could end up backfiring down the road over time as demand, passenger load and cargo load increases given less flights and more people having to jockey for a seat.

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