Airlines ‘fiddling with flight times’ to avoid paying passengers compensation for delays investigation claims
A comparison has found that despite advances in air technology, flights are actually getting longer. But, is it all a ploy to avoid paying you compensation?
Flights are on average 35 minutes longer than a decade ago, a report has revealed, that claims airlines are “padding” their schedules to create a false impression that passengers are arriving on time.
An investigation by Which? Travel said that despite advances in air travel, flights today are actually slower than they were in 2009 – and it claims it’s the airlines fiddling with flight times to avoid compensation payouts.
The consumer website said firms are deliberately adding on extra time to make it appear as though they are arriving on schedule and to give them leeway to ‘catch up in the air’ if they’re running late
This means a flight that would previously have been scheduled in for eight hours would now be sold as 8.5, allowing the pilot buffer time to make up for any delays incurred before its officially considered ‘late’ and liable for compensation.
Researchers examined average flight times for 125 routes operated by large airlines in 2009 and compared them with last year.
They found that of 76 routes, 61%, now state they take longer; with 87% of British Airways flights analysed found to be slower.
That proportion was 82% for Ryanair, 75% for Virgin Atlantic and 62% for easyJet.
BA flights from Heathrow to Bangkok, New York and Singapore were extended by 20 minutes, and a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to Newark Liberty airport, New Jersey, now takes an average of 35 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, nine out of 11 Ryanair routes looked at were slower – and even the budget airline’s short hop from London Stansted to Berlin Schonefeld has extended by 10 minutes, on average.
Additionally, 16 out of 26 easyJet flights were slower – with its London Gatwick to Berlin Schonefeld service longer by 19 minutes.
Which? said the figures aren’t reflective of industry advances – earlier this year the new Dreamliner flew from New York to London in just five hours and 13 minutes.
So why would easyJet need an extra 19 minutes to get to Berlin?
Passengers are likely to feel that schedule padding is another case of airlines pulling the wool over their eyes,” explained Rory Boland, at Which? Travel.
“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.”
Extra ‘wiggle room’ – but they’re still off schedule
Keith Mason, professor of air transport management at Cranfield University, told Which? that airlines regularly adjusted scheduled flight times to give themselves some “wiggle room”.
“The problem for airlines is that if there’s any delay, then [there is] the knock-on effect through the rest of the flying programme that day,” he said.
Despite the changes in scheduling, some of Europe’s largest carriers have seen punctuality fall in recent years.
According to Which?, BA, easyJet and Ryanair were all less punctual last year than in 2009, with easyJet recording a 10% fall in punctuality during the eight-year period.
In response, airlines said they were flying at slower speeds to reduce fuel consumption and that this allowed them to offer cheaper fares.
BA also told Which? that air traffic control congestion was a factor, with European skies now much busier than 10 years ago, while previous flight taxi times had been “too optimistic”.
Virgin Atlantic said: “There are many reasons why schedules may vary, for example, congestion at airports, more economical flying regimes, stronger jet streams or different aircraft types.”
Easyjet said: “Our data shows Easyjet’s network punctuality was at 80 percent for 2017. Only 0.8 per cent of our flights are delayed by more than three hours and we will always pay compensation when it is due.”
Flight compensation rules
EU rules are clear on how much airlines should pay passengers in the event of delays.
Delays of more than three hours or more are subject to €250 in compensation which rises by the distance you’re travelling. This can escalate to €600 if the flight is four hours late.
Coby Benson, flight delay solicitor at Bott & Co explains: “If a passenger’s flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 3 hours then they are entitled to between €250 and €600 compensation, unless the disruption was caused by extraordinary circumstances: beyond the airline’s control or events that are ‘not inherent’ in the day-to-day activity of an airline.”
News source: The Mirror