Padding, the clever trick that gives carriers and airlines the impression of punctuality, is the enemy of airline efficiency, explains Captain Michael Baiada. His solution – a system which sees an aircraft adjusting its operations during the course of its journey – is meant to increase efficiency.
When it comes to the often contentious topic of airline punctuality, padding is the clever trick that gives carriers the appearance of being on time, reports the BBC. But this technique, the outlet explains, is simply “the extra time airlines allow themselves to fly from A to B.”
So, by deploying this tool and building extra time into their schedules – rather than actively improving their operational efficiency – padding essentially gives passengers the illusion of a timely arrival or departure.
But as Captain Michael Baiada, president of aviation consultancy ATH Group, explained to the outlet, “By padding, airlines are gaming the system to fool you. Padding drives higher costs in fuel burn, noise and CO2 which means if airline efficiency goes up, costs go down, benefitting both the environment and fares.”
According to a report by the US Department of Transportation (DoT), some carriers – most notably Delta – are working to ensure that their flights are well and truly punctual, but 30 percent of all flights arrive in excess of 15 minutes late on a daily basis.
While there are, concedes Baiada, multiple factors involved in airline punctuality, many of these things can be controlled. But part of the problem, he says, is that, “Once an aircraft is off the gate, the airlines forget about it until it arrives at the next airport.”
He believes that carriers should be monitoring and adjusting their operations during the course of a journey rather than relying on air traffic controllers to make these corrections during travel.
In fact, Baiada’s solution to this issue is a Business Based Flow Management (BBFM) system, something that would see airlines doing exactly that. This system was tested back in 2012 at five different airports across the U.S.
While it was effective in reducing delays, congestion, noise, fuel burn and a host of other indicators, not all within the industry are so eager to implement Baiada’s model. “Airlines have invested in new technology before with mixed results,” retired airline executive Tom Hendricks told the outlet.
“They are now very careful [about] what they do invest in. This is complicated by the fact they are investing heavily in the technology required by global air traffic control modernization now underway,” he added.
While padding is an issue that can certainly have an impact on travelers, it is ultimately, as airline consultant Bob Mann explained to the outlet, something that carriers themselves must resolve.
“When it comes to delays and congestion, airlines are still complaining it’s an air traffic control problem when it is not. My view is they should stop complaining and do something about it, benefiting customers, employees, investors and the communities they serve,” he said.
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