Flight delay mythology

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Last week, the Press Association issued an analysis, using CAA data, of where departing UK flights are likely to the most delayed.

Stansted has an average 25 minute delay on departing flights. Who cares as long as it arrives on time.

The mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon and highlighted that the worst was Stansted where an average delay was of 25 minutes. Which? Travel called it completely unacceptable and Stansted didn’t really defend itself but just issued a crawling statement that said it was a challenging time.

A week later, the story had died – apart from in my mind – but no-one had  pointed out the flaws in this research.

The first flaw is that doesn’t really matter – within reason – when a plane takes off. What matters is when it lands. That is the crucial point when making connections or arranging to be collected by taxis or friends. And even then, a plane landing on time can do nothing to assist passengers dealing with long security queues or baggage reclaim issues or even being re-routed around the airport perimeter before arriving at its gate.

I would be much more interested in knowing what time planes from Stansted arrived at their destinations and how punctual they were.  

Secondly, like all timetabled transport, a margin of error is built into timetables to allow for the unexpected. It isn’t a massive padding but padding there definitely is. You realise this when the pilot tells you that the flight will take “X” hours and minutes which is much less than the times you were given when you booked.

In the airline industry, the definition of being punctual is a little different from what you might expect. A plane landing within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time is considered to be “on-time” so even the most punctual airlines may not be as punctual as they trumpet.

If the same definition were applied to departing flights then most of the airports would be considered as having had “punctual” flights.

But then the Press Association wouldn’t have had a story and the media wouldn’t be able to wrings its collective hands and say how terrible everything was!

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