Some Interesting Thoughts On The Shrinking and Expanding of Flight Times

Scott McCartney’s weekly piece in the Thursday Wall Street Journal is one I look forward to reading each week.  With few exceptions I enjoy what he writes.  Sometimes it’s high-level, sometimes entry level.  And, while Scott takes views I sometimes disagree with, he doesn’t strike me as a polarizing figure.

This week Scott wrote about how airlines are starting to shrink the block times for flights.

This is another example of the airlines, to some degree, realizing that the strategies of old may not be the best fit.  Years ago, airlines did their best to add time to scheduled flights to ensure they arrived on time.  Now, adding 15 minutes to a 2-hour flight because your employees don’t give a damn about pushing back on time doesn’t really strike me as smart business.

One of the reasons Southwest is profitable is because it can turn it’s planes faster than anyone in the industry.  Less time planes sit on the ground, the more time they have to make profit.

The thing that makes me think the airlines are actually trying to figure out a better solution is this quote:

Delta Air LinesDAL +1.85% for example, had the same flight schedules Monday through Friday. Now, it has shaved time off flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays—days when there are fewer planes in the sky and thus fewer delays.

It makes total sense that on lighter travel days a typical flight can get from point A to B quicker.  But, the airlines have traditionally lived in a “one size fits all” world.  As they have begun to charge for individual services (priority boarding, checked bags), it’s also good to see that they’re focusing on breaking down individual transactions amidst these massive complicated businesses.

One of the most frustrating parts of flying is getting somewhere 20 minutes early because the block times are messed up and then finding out that we don’t have a gate yet or there are no employees at our gate to get us off the plane.  What’s the point of putting me on the plane 20 minutes early if I can’t actually get there early?  Let me sit in the club working or spend some more time with family.

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