July 5, 2007

Summer meltdowns...

From a NYT article on airline delays. Very bad. Just stay home.

...As anyone who has flown recently can probably tell you, delays are getting worse this year. The on-time performance of airlines has reached an all-time low, but even the official numbers do not begin to capture the severity of the problem.

That is because these statistics track how late airplanes are, not how late passengers are. The longest delays — those resulting from missed connections and canceled flights — involve sitting around for hours or even days in airports and hotels and do not officially get counted. Researchers and consumer advocates have taken notice and urged more accurate reporting....

..Moreover, in addition to crowded flights, the usual disruptive summer thunderstorms and an overtaxed air traffic control system, travelers could encounter some very grumpy airline employees; after taking big pay cuts and watching airline executives reap some big bonuses, many workers are fed up.

Some other airline delay statistics, meanwhile, are getting a fresh look, as well. After thousands of passengers were stranded for hours on tarmacs in New York and Texas this past winter, consumer advocates began complaining that Transportation Department data does not accurately track such meltdowns.

If a flight taxies out, sits for hours, and then taxies back in and is canceled, the delay is not recorded. Likewise, flights diverted to cities other than their destination are not figured into delay statistics...

Another factor not mentioned is that software now makes it possible to make schedules that use planes much more efficiently. That is, with planes spending less time on the ground. This helps make flying cheaper, but also makes the whole system more "brittle," because there are fewer planes sitting around airports that can be pressed into service if one breaks down.

Posted by John Weidner at July 5, 2007 6:11 AM
Weblog by John Weidner