Just As We Thought – Research Shows Airlines Pad On Time Stats
Airlines have been continuously improving their on-time records recently, but it’s mainly because of a trick they’re using. This might not be a very well kept secret, but airlines are padding their flight times to reduce the number of late flights.
Singapore Management University did a study recently and they looked at a random sampling of airlines’ schedules between 1986 and 2016 for heavily traveled non-stop routes.
Researchers found that even after accounting for the effects of such things as air traffic growth, airport-specific congestion, and other airport-specific anomalies, the scheduled block times of flights has grown between 6.2 and 9.8 minutes per flight since 1986. That’s the amount of time that between when an airplane leaves its departure gate to when it parks at its arrival gate.
Flights between Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Francisco International (SFO) for example have extended from a block time of 90 minutes in 1996 to anywhere from 91 to 110 minutes. You might have noticed this yourself as well, as often you will arrive at a destination well ahead the announced arrival time. Or you leave late from your destination and still manage to arrive on time.
Even with all the padding, over 30% of all flights arrive more than 15 minutes late every day, BBC reports. And this practice of adding extra time to flights, keeps airlines from trying to become more efficient, meaning congestion and carbon emissions will keep rising.