Airlines Are Extending Flight Times To Avoid Paying Compensation For Delays, Report Finds

Airplane takeoff.
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According to a recent report by Which? Travel, plane journeys are taking longer than they did a decade ago despite more advanced and improved technology, reports The Guardian.

Airlines have been accused of padding their schedules as a way of misleading passengers to believe they are arriving on time. The extended flight times, usually of about 30 minutes, are meant to make up for any unexpected delays and save the airlines from compensation payouts.

Researchers for the London-based travel guide looked at flight times for 125 routes operated by major airlines in 2009 and compared those with flight times in 2017. The results showed that a shocking 61 percent of the routes were scheduled to take longer in 2017 than 2009. Eighty-seven percent of British Airways flights were slated to take longer, compared with 82 percent for Ryanair, 75 percent for Virgin Atlantic, and 62 percent for easyJet.

The average amount of time that flights were found to be extended was between 20 and 35 minutes.

Planes taxiing.
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Rory Boland, the editor of Which? Travel explained the report’s findings, writes The Guardian.

“Passengers are likely to feel that schedule padding is another case of airlines pulling the wool over their eyes. Carriers are quick to claim that adding 10, 20 and even 30 minutes to flights will improve on-time performance. The accompanying slump in punctuality over recent years suggests it hasn’t helped much. Instead, longer scheduled flight times are likely to mean passengers spend more time sitting around at the gate or on the plane itself, just so the airline can pat itself on the back for being ‘on time’ at your destination. Conveniently, it could also reduce the number of instances when an airline has to pay you compensation for a flight delay.”

Keith Mason, professor of air transport management at Cranfield University, also spoke to the reason why airlines delay flights. He explained that airlines like to give themselves some “wiggle room” in case of delays. If there is a profound delay, it creates what he referred to as a “knock-down effect” that pushes back the entire flight schedule for the rest of the day.

Despite the schedule padding, airlines are actually seeing their punctuality rate fall over recent years. Which? Travel reports that airlines claim slower speeds and air traffic congestion as reasons why their punctuality rate is plunging. British Airlines told the travel guide that previous flight taxi times had been “too optimistic” compared to the reality of current traffic control congestion.