Are we surprised air journeys take longer?

By | Category: travel, Travel rumblings

longer flight times shouldn’t surprise us

You might have seen the fuss when Which? Travel claimed that air journeys were taking longer than they were some decades ago. Researchers examined average flight times for 125 routes operated by large airlines in 2009 and compared them with last year.

The mainstream media latched onto the story with a hint of a suggestion that airlines were extending flight times for their own benfit

They found that 76 routes, 61%, were now scheduled to take longer; with 87% of British Airways flights analysed found to be slower as were 82% with Ryanair, 75% with Virgin Atlantic and 62% with easyJet.

There is a  reason that Which? Travel did mention as to why journeys are taking longer. The first of these is that skies are more crowded. There are thousands more flights in Europe than there were a decade ago. That can lead to congestion so Eurocontrol as the body responsible for airline movements and planning in Europe has had talks with airlines at easing congestion. In addition airlines use less fuel if they don’t fly as fast as they can and that keeps fares lower than they might be. (or increases profits for airlines.) Research done by the University of Westminster and Just about Travel’s parent company many years ago showed that most passengers don’t object if a flight is slightly delayed and that may be a reason why those routes where delays are common – usually the busier airports – take slightly longer to fly to and from than they used to. Longer delays, however,  (over 30 minutes) do rankle with passengers.

Aren’t airlines only doing what train companies do? They add a minute here and a minute there so that train journeys are longer than they were some fifty years ago. Partially that is also due to more trains on the track just as there are more planes in the sky. Both also operate in old fashioned ways due to the way that airspace and rail track space are allotted and managed. Eurocontrol and NATS (the UK body responsible for managing air space) have both called for reform. When that happens, flight times might diminish.



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