The world didn’t end. No logistical disasters emerged. In fact, everything got a hell of a lot better.
Several months ago, the prospect of a maximum three-hour tarmac delay had the airline industry proclaiming the arrival of the four horsemen. They claimed that it would severely disrupt the industry to have to give passengers the option of getting off the plane would lead to chaos. People would be furious by a lone passenger wanting to bring the plane back to the gate, and crews would be forced to operate within the constraints of customer demands (you know … like other businesses).
Well, the airline industry doesn’t appear to be any worse off than it was. In fact, it looks like the new three-hour rule is having a positive effect. Three-hour tarmac delays have effectively disappeared, and on-time arrivals have improved overall. Everything seems to be running better than it was before the airlines faced fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.
How big a different did it make?Well, only four planes sat on the tarmac for more than three hours in April. In March, 25 hit that mark, and April 2009 had an astounding 81 planes on the tarmac for that long.
So, you’re probably wondering if the airlines stacked the deck, canceling flights to protect their stats and mitigate the risk of having to yank planes back to the gate or shell out big bucks fines. Year over year, the DOT reports that cancelations fell approximately 50 percent, with only 3,637 of 529,330 flights getting chopped.
Overall, on-time performance for the 18 airlines that report to the U.S. Department of Transportation climbed to 85.3 percent in April – up from 79.1 percent in April 2009 (and better than March’s 80 percent. Most of the late arrivals were caused by aviation system delays (e.g., bad weather or heavy traffic).
Efficient use of New York airspace and generally calm weather contributed to the improvement. LaGuardia‘s on-time rate surged to 87.4 percent from 67.4 percent. JFK showed a similar improvement – from 67.3 percent to 83.5 percent.
U.S. Airways led the pack in on-time performance among major airlines and followed Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines in the total market. American Airlines was the bottom of the barrel for the large carriers, with its sister carrier, American Eagle, sucking most among all airlines.
Let’s do the math on this. Holding airlines accountable and offering up the threat of hefty fines for mistreating passengers didn’t jeopardize their ability to operate. If anything, it led to improved results. For once, it seems, the government got it right. If that sounds weird, think of an airline that takes off and lands on time. Weird, right?