Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Six excuses for airports why punctuality cannot be improved

In a recent post I talked about the need to improve punctuality. I illustrated that the infamous metric 'percent on-time departures' is insufficient and inaccurately measuring the airport's or airline's performance. So if SAS claims to be the most punctual airline this summer then I salute them but I wonder what their actual on-time performance was. Wasn't there some airport closures? This is the first reason why there is no need to improve your on-time performance. You already seem to operate at a high level and the press and the public is happy.

The second reason not to bother is what an airport official from Sheremetyevo International said to Forbes, that in most cases, delayed departures are simply caused by flights arriving late from other airports.

As a third reason there is to mention that low-cost airlines frequently plan for short turnaround times on the ground. This can mean there is a higher likelihood of an aircraft possibly running late.

Let us not forget the capacity of airspace at many busy airports, air traffic also plays a role, as a fourth reason why we can't improve.

At the same time we can rely on Eurocontrol's delay analysis which says that more than 50% of all delays are caused by the airlines themselves. So, as a fifth argument, who should start to improve?

Last but not least we can disagree with the statistics, with the definition of punctuality (which flights to consider?) and the data source. Because airlines and airports do not want to provide flight information and share their on-time performance, there are some platforms like FlightStats that use any available data. We can argue, as a sixth point, that those figures are simply not correct.

Maybe you will find more of them and would like to share them with me.


  1. Pretty good article!. Thanks for sharing it with us!.
    Do airlines really need to provide their on-time flight performance information with Airports?. I believe they are already doing it and using different means as for example when sharing their MVT.

  2. Ana, thanks for your comment. What I meant with sharing performance information was about benchmark amongst airlines or airports. For instance, AEA, the Association of European Airlines, used to publish on-time performance rankings of the major European carriers. Not anymore since 2008 because the airlines did not want it to be published anymore. Certainly, based on flight data most airport can calculate the airport and airline performance but they can't compare to other airports. And, they struggle in defining measures to improve.