Why airline times will get longer

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

We all hate delays – except claims companies – but it doesn’t look as though there will be fewer delays in the future without a considerable overhaul of how we manage airspace.

What makes me write that?

The release by IATA of performance statistics for 2017 is the reason.

Worldwide annual air passenger numbers exceeded four billion for the first time. Airlines connected a record number of cities worldwide, providing regular services between 20,000 cities in 2017, more than double the level of 1995.In Europe there were 1.1 billion passengers, up 8.2% over 2016 and over a quarter of all passengers used European airspace.

More of us are flying and we are taking more journeys. IATA says that in the year 2000 the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months.

Most planes are not bigger than they were in 2000. That means that there are more routes, more planes and more flights. Living on islands, UK residents have the choice of ferry, train and air travel if they want to go abroad. The overwhelming choice is to use a plane because they are generally faster.

It is not unexpected then that the skies are becoming more congested. Surely as a by-product the chances of planes being delayed must  grow as well. It can be argued that regional airports have more passengers than ever but the same applies to the big four; Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted. And just as we face rush-hours in car traffic the same applies to airlines.

How might airlines and airports get around this problem. One way would be to have fewer travellers. Another might be to have larger planes so there are fewer journeys but that might only be economic on the very busiest of routes. Could using regional or under-used airports provide a solution? That they are under-used suggests airlines can’t make them economic or passengers don’t want to use them.

It seems to come down into how we manage our air space. Whilst the UK might unilaterally be able to adjust how air space is used after Brexit, the problem is wider and would require international agreement.

Until then delays will happen even if airlines add minutes to their flight times to make it look as though they land on time.

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