Leaving on a jet plane – in a few hours

Ready to boardI spend a fair amount of time at airports. Bjork’s rendition of Leaving on a Jet Plane could be my personal soundtrack. As an experienced traveler, I don’t suffer from many air travel-related fears, but there is one thing I am deathly afraid of: The $5 meal coupon.

To this day, I still get shivers and a sinking gut-feeling the moment stewardesses come up to me with their most apologetic smile. Because we all know the moment airlines bust out the $5 meal coupon, you better be prepared to suffer through hours of blinding boredom and awkward games of Bench Tetris/Pretzel Time (where tiny airport seating and dreaded armrests force you into shapes and positions a yoga master would be envious of!).

Fact: Flight delays have become the norm at airports.

According to a 2012 study by Airlines for America, the cost of flight delay to airlines and airports are about $78 dollars per minute.

This may not seem like much, but consider this: 25 – 30% of 93,000 flights are delayed daily and flight delays last an average of 26 minutes. With passenger compensation and penalties to federal authorities, we’re talking about billions in losses!

What causes flight delays? Are these causes out of our control that we’re not able to plan ahead? According to the RITA Bureau of Transportation Statistics, these are top 5 causes of flight delays worldwide:

  • Airport operations and  air traffic control dealing with fluctuations in traffic volume
  • Inefficient air carriers
  • Diverse weather
  • Security screening issues
  • Other unforeseen circumstances

It’s time to change the norm. Mitigate flight delays, save billions in losses and increase passenger satisfaction. But how?

Departures and arrivals electronic schedule

Start with two small steps:

#1 Identify risks & possible scenarios

A famous French chemist once said: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In an industry as volatile as aviation you should be ready for anything, Scenario planning allows you to take a look at what-ifs and prepare for disruptions and delays, and the effect that that may have on your required employees and equipment. Unfortunately some reasons for delay are beyond an airliner’s or airport’scontrol, but preparing for potential disruptions will ensure a quick resolution and result in shorter delays.

#2 Extend visibility across your operations

In case of delays, revision of plans cannot be done in isolation. There are many stakeholders to take into account: airport employees, airline staff, service providers (that do anything from security, to catering, to fueling and baggage handling, etc.). Without a broader view of the impact of decisions, you can never be sure that solving one problem won’t be creating another one elsewhere.

Extended visibility beyond your own planning department, will allow airlines and airports to come up with a more coordinated plan and a faster, more cost-effective resolution.

Small steps lead to big wins. The ideal future is where airlines and airports coordinate their planning capabilities to ensure flight delays are kept as short as humanly possible. I wouldn’t want to be terrifyingly paranoid the next time a smiling stewardess comes up to me!

What other strategies can you implement to minimize airport disruptions? Download our management briefing to find out.


Rae Janssen


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