Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three Myths About Airport Punctuality

While Ryanair is boasting to be the most punctual European airline, Oman Air celebrates one day of 100% on-time performance on April 26 this year. Unfortunately there is no public data that proves any of these claims.

What about airports? In April 2011 London Heathrow published a record 94% departure punctuality.  Now they are Britain's worst airport according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

I think it's time to wade through some of the myths and confusion surrounding airport punctuality.
1. Punctuality is an internationally standardized metric.
Punctuality targets are usually defined in terms of 15-minute punctuality, i.e. a flight is counted as departing on-time if the plane goes off-blocks within 15 minutes of the scheduled time of  departure. But what is "15 minutes"? Is it more than 14'59" or more than 15' or even more than 15'59"? Now some airports and airlines may disagree on this but even ACI, IATA and AEA don't. If they do, then it will probably be 15'59", stealing another minute from the passenger, airline and airport capacity just to look better.

And, have you compared off-blocks times of airport and airline? Some airports check and validate differences within +/- 1 minute, most don't. Result: airport and airline report different punctuality figures.

2. Punctuality is a great metric to benchmark.

In previous posts I was highlighting some flaws of punctuality as a metric.
  • Cancellations of delayed flights improve punctuality
  • Indicator ignores size of aircraft and number of passengers affected
  • No assessment about the financial loss possible
  • Mix of performance which can be influenced with exogenous factors
  • Difficult to determine improvement measures
Why is it still used, even as internal target? Because it is easy to understand and when it is bad, it can be easily attributed to exogenous factors.

3. Eurocontrol A-CDM improves airport punctuality.

There is no evidence that ECTRL A-CDM improves punctuality. Yes, it might reduce taxi times but with a negative effect on departure punctuality. With the lack of evidence I did some research myself and present the findings in my next post.

I know it is easy to lament. What do I have to offer instead? An approach and metrics to actually address the issue together with other stakeholders. Because the airport can have that 360° view and not just the silo view by every other stakeholder.

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