Airline holding patterns

By | Category: Travel rumblings

airplaneWe have all experienced it. The pilot gets on the intercom save that air traffic control has put your flight into a holding pattern for ten minutes so you’ll be landing slightly later than planned.

In most cases your flight is on time yet a holding pattern is given to your aircraft. The pilot says something like, that isn’t unusual as it’s the Friday rush period or something like that.

But air traffic control knows how many planes are due.  A plane lands or takes off every 90 seconds at Heathrow so the skills that the air traffic controllers have is used to planning carefully. So if a plane is about on time why should they be shunted into a holding pattern?   Admittedly if a plane has an emergency then it might be necessary to put planes into holding patterns but that is quite rare. If a plane is late or early then you can understand why they would have missed their slot. Those should be penalised but surely not those that are on time.

And why is it that you stand more chance of being stacked in the morning or evening rush hours? To repeat myself, air traffic control knows the number of planes that are due to land so why can’t it handle them without putting them in holding patterns? If they can’t and it is a regular enough event to suggest they can’t, isn’t the obvious answer to not allow so many planes to have similar arrival times?

It is known that there is specific demand for certain times of the day but the impression passengers get is similar to trying to pour a quart into a pint pot. Something has to give and, in this case, certain flights are stacked. Just because there is a demand for so many flights doesn’t mean to say that it should be accommodated.

So, apart from emergencies and weather related issues that might slow planes down, couldn’t some priority be given to those planes that manage to keep to their timings?


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