It’s the inevitable and at any point in time a business traveler will likely have to face the inconvenience of a significant delay or cancellation.  Unfortunately, it is not only the personal inconvenience of changes in travel plans that impacts the traveler, but it’s the impact to losing valuable time with clients as well as time away from the office.  We decided to take a look at the primary causes of delays and identify what the airlines are doing to improve their on-time departures.


According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the reasons for flight delays fall into three categories: carrier delay, national aviation system delay and extreme weather.  National aviation system and weather delays are outside of a carrier’s control, but air carrier delays include multiple situations that an airline can offset including strikes, crew member late arrivals, system outages and technology errors.


Flight delays impact not only the airlines directly and their customers, but also has a direct influence on the economy. These delays and cancellations taint the airlines’ reputation, often resulting in loss of demand by passengers. Additionally, it may have an indirect impression as the inefficiency of the air transportation system demands for a larger number of employees and ground staff, increasing the cost of doing business. According to Nextor, domestic flight delays cost the U.S economy $31.2 billion, including $8.3 billion in direct costs to airlines, $16.7 billion in direct costs to passengers, $2.2 billion from lost demand and $4.0 billion in forgone GDP.


Travel disruption for passengers results in increased travel time, increased expenses on food and lodging and increased stress. This can cause a distrust for certain airlines and put a blemish on reputation.

For example, United Airlines (UA) was ranked 8th out of 10 airlines for on-time arrivals, successfully arriving within a 15 minute window only 77% of the time. Fortunately, in January of this year, UA started a test program with 7 airports whereby they used an automated Connection Saver tool that identified which flights could be held up to accommodate passengers with tight connections, as long as the flight time could be made up in the air.  To date, UA states they have helped over 50,000 passengers and will be rolling this technology out to all domestic airports by end of this month.

Improved management of crew as well as improved boarding processes are helping airlines stay on time, and making it easier for travelers to stay updated.  In many airports where a particular airline has the majority of the gates, they are investing in notifications of wait times at various security checkpoints. They also invest in biometrics for boarding and discounts for TSA Pre-Check and Clear, that help streamline the time it takes to clear security.  In the end, the bottom line will be based upon the satisfaction of the traveler.  Investing now in technology, system redundancies and ways to improve traveler satisfaction will deliver the highest dividends in the future.


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