By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
About a decade ago, Joe Nolan, a semi-retired electrical engineer from Palm Desert, Calif., could expect to hop on a flight at Palm Springs International Airport and arrive in San Francisco 55 minutes later.
Now the flight is usually scheduled for about 90 minutes. Nolan suspects that airlines are allotting more time for each flight to make it easier to meet their arrival schedule.
“It tells me that the on-time statistics are worthless,” he said.
Nolan might have a point. A study by a British company that collects and analyzes travel data concluded that airlines around the globe have been padding their flight schedules for nearly 20 years.
In the U.S., on-time performance rates for commercial airlines have been on the rise and airline executives have boasted about the percentage of flights that arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time.
The study by OAG Aviation Worldwide looked at several routes around the world to conclude that the “block” times set aside for many flights have been growing since 1996.
For example, OAG looked at more than 1,400 flights scheduled between Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport in 1996 and found that no flights took longer than 90 minutes, according to the study. By 2015, nearly half of the flights scheduled between the two airports allotted between 91 minutes and 110 minutes, the study said.
On average, the allotted time for flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco increased 8 percent from 1996 to 2015, the study found.
The OAG study suggested that airlines have added the extra travel time so they can post better on-time rates but also to help carriers deal with growing congestion on the airport tarmac.
“At airports which are congested, airlines need to keep schedules realistic so their timetables are reliable,” the study said.
A spokesman for an airline trade group rejected the idea that commercial carriers are increasing the time allotment for flights just to improve on-time performance.
“We have the same goals as our customers, which is to get them, their luggage and packages to their destination safely and on time,” said Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the country’s airlines.
MOST TRAVEL PLANS TO EUROPE UNCHANGED
Despite the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, nearly three-quarters of travel managers for major U.S. corporations say their travel plans to Europe remain largely unchanged.
That is the finding of a survey of nearly 170 U.S.-based travel managers who were questioned by the Global Business Travel Association, a trade group for the business travel industry.
In fact, only 10 percent of the travel managers said they have temporarily suspended travel to Paris in the wake of the attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. An additional 16 percent said they made only “slight reductions” in their travel plans to Europe, according to the survey.
The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel warning last week, urging U.S. citizens to be extra vigilant when traveling abroad, especially in public places, in large crowds and while using transportation. It was the third such “worldwide” warning in as many years.
“Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets and aviation services,” the warning says.
AMERICAN AIRLINES WORST FOR LOST BAGS
Among the nation’s biggest carriers, American Airlines has the worst record for losing and mishandling luggage.
In the first nine months of 2015, the Forth Worth-based carrier lost or mishandled 4.04 bags for every 1,000 passengers, compared with an average rate of 3.31 lost or mishandled bags for the country’s top 13 biggest airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
But when American Airlines lost the luggage of Adrianne Haslet-Davis, it became big news. Haslet-Davis is a dancer who lost a leg during the Boston Marathon bombing. The misplaced luggage contained a prosthetic leg and other parts she uses to dance, valued at $250,000.
Haslet-Davis reported details of the mishap on Twitter. She didn’t give her travel itinerary but said the leg wouldn’t fit in her carry-on luggage.
When the bag was found last week, Haslet-Davis tweeted that her leg had taken an unexpected side trip:
“My leg really (loves) to travel! Just found out she took detour to Puerto Rico.”
©2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria