And now a little something different

Buffalo Travel Blog

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Abraham Lincon once said (to paraphrase), 'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time'.  Not sure where I'm going with that, but I've always liked that quote.  Anyway, I've decided to take a break from the tip line for a bit of general travel discussion.  I had a tip all ready to go but then I decided that I'd rather not spend time on the computer and then there was the flight back to the states...

Anyway, today I happened by a USA today (this doesn't happen too often) and came across this story that seems to have made headline news..

And well it should.  Cause if delays are up this year by a lot, you know that something really is rotten in the state of denmark.  I'll illustrate what I'm trying to say with a real world example. The other day I was flying overseas, london to toronto.  I got onto the air canada plane and due to a problem with the fuel system we ended up taking off almost an hour late.  Several hours later and 30-40 fiendish soduko puzzles later (I wish I had gotten them all but my rate of success was fairly abysmal) we arrive, tada, on time. 

But how can that be?  We left an hour late, how could we have landed on time?  Obviously there are a few factors that can help make up lost time.  Tail wind (having mother nature give you a good push), hitting the gas, flying at a higher altitude, etc but generally speaking, the reason why you can take off late and arrive on time or early is that airlines pad their flight times.  Many times, this padding can be quite excessive. Which is why I laugh when I hear about how airlines have moved the goal posts around as far hitting on time percentages with respect to their flights.  I mean, how hard is it to be ontime if you give yourself an hour and a half for what is normally a 50 minute flight?

Armed with this bit of knowledge, you know things are pretty screwed up if you have a really bad year as far as delays.  And that in the future, you can look forward to more padding because no airline (or business in general) wants to have to deal with irate customers over delivering bad (not timely) service.  I suppose I could call this the english public transit idea of delay.  My guess is that organisation that runs the english public transit system, tired of angry customers upset over the lateness of their trains, decided to redefine on-time to basically any train that isn't running more than five minutes late.   Something to contrast with say Japan which went through the incredible step of allowing their train conductors to be sixty seconds late (they used to define ontime as being within 20 seconds of scheduled time).  This was due to a conductor who was running late, making a train run at an unsafe speed to pick up time and causing a horrific accident.  Granted, unlike Japan, there is no real social stigma with running late, nor does the public get that upset over their train system being a total mess.  Because there was, nothing would get done because there would be riots in the streets (cause the english train system sucks).

Anyway, I suppose I find that interesting.  You want a bit of a fudge factor so that you don't put pilots (or train engineers) in a position of doing something reckless to make up time but you also really don't want to make flight schedules completely meaningless due the excessive padding on the flights. 
chivato says:
Hmm as people have said, this is not an exhaustive list of the reasons for delays, but I do believe that most of the padding on flights is to mitigate the risk associated with pissed of customers. People, FAA, etc, are pretty forgiving about being delayed due to safety concerns, I for one, would rather arrive late than not to arrive at all.
Posted on: Jun 08, 2007
Eric says:
Interesting post! I never knew about the padding of flight times, but it makes a lot of sense in hindsight. Wonder what the solution to the tradeoff between safety and excessive delays is...
Posted on: Jun 05, 2007
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