Why does it take 25 minutes longer to fly from New York to Los Angeles than it did 10 years ago? Did they move further apart? Nope. The airlines now build the delay into the flight schedule so its more likely that the flight will arrive “on time.”
According to the DOT, “on time” is within 15 minutes of a flight’s scheduled arrival time.
From the Wall Street Journal:
A check of two dozen flights from June airline schedules found that “block times” — the time airlines allot in their schedules for the trip — are about 10 percent higher than they were in June 1997. That kind of slowdown makes trips less productive for travelers with more time spent sitting and waiting. It can also frustrate travelers who arrive “early” on days when there aren’t slowdowns, only to wait for a gate to open at the scheduled arrival time.
Even though some of today’s airplanes cruise faster than the models they have replaced and are equipped with advanced navigation systems capable of flying the shortest route between two points, airlines have had little opportunity to take advantage of those improvements. Congestion in the sky and high fuel prices often slow down the cruise speed of planes.
A lack of modern equipment for air-traffic controllers means planes still fly from one radio beacon on the ground to another, hop-scotching across the country instead of flying shorter, more-direct paths.
Experts say congested airports need more runways, and the modernization program that the Federal Aviation Administration has embarked on should eventually help speed up air travel. But, “it’ll probably get worse before it gets better,” said Russell Chew, former operating chief at the FAA who recently became chief operating officer at JetBlue Airways Corp.
Hurry up and wait. —MEGHANN MARCO