There are a lot of questions surrounding airline travel, sometimes people think there’s a lack of transparency. In an effort to clear some of those misconceptions up, I opened the floor to some non-industry friends for a round of question and answers. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments for another blog!
Every flight I’m on seems to have a delay. Why are airlines so bad at staying on time?
Everyone’s been there – you’re standing at the gate in a crowd of people, waiting to board, and all of a sudden you hear an announcement: your flight is delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s one of the most annoying feelings, yet it happens all the time. They say it’s weather related, but you look outside and it doesn’t seem that bad to you. What’s really going on?
I guess I should start off by saying that at Lufthansa, we really do strive to get you where you’re going when we told you we’d get you there. That’s part of the promise, and part of the service. The airline is so precise about it that if your flight leaves 3 minutes after its scheduled departure time, the responsible airport staff has to enter a reason for the delay into our systems. These are called delay codes.
We have well over 100 different delay codes in existence, which is a good example of exactly how many things can affect your flight that we try to avoid.
Besides bad weather there are numerous moving parts that can stop working and delay a flight many of the factors that delay flights are completely out of the airlines’ control. For instance, in order to manage traffic volume at a given airport, Air Traffic Control (ATC) will restrict the number of flights that can land at a given airport, which causes delays for airlines. Additionally, missing passengers are another problem. If passengers check in, but do not show up at the gate, in accordance with strict security rules, we have to find their luggage from the hundreds of bags on board and take it off the plane. These offloads can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on how many passengers are missing. That’s why it’s imperative to be at your gate on time, and why airlines often close doors 10 minutes prior to the listed departure time – nobody wants to wait to have to find those bags.
Handling delays are delays which are caused by airport staff not servicing the aircraft in a timely manner. These are the kinds of delays the airline has control over and really works to minimize. For instance, late arrival of catering or fuelling trucks, breakdown of ramp equipment, etc. These would all be examples of handling delays. This is where employees make all the difference. How we tackle the problems that arise on the ramp, and how we work together as a team to solve these issues is the difference between precious minutes wasted at the gate, and precious minutes flying in the air. Be sure to come back tomorrow, when I’ll blog about where your bag really goes when you check it in.