It's funny, when people stop flying, it seems the airlines really start caring about on-time performance. US Airways practically threw a party a few weeks ago when it topped all legacy carriers for on-time performance after years of poor numbers. American, on the other hand, didn't fare too well, finishing 19th out of 19 airlines, and now the carrier is making a concerted effort to improve its punctuality this year.
American has already begun the slow upward climb, posting improved numbers each month from August through December. But Ted Reed at TheStreet.com writes, "American concedes it was late to make adjustments. In 2005 and 2006, it focused on improving revenue. For instance, to conserve fuel, its airplanes flew more slowly. Likewise, it encouraged rising load factors but didn't necessarily allocate more time to board [the] aircraft."
But last year, American finally implemented a series of changes to improve on-time performance. According to TheStreet, American "increased flying times to allow for air traffic-control delays. It increased ground time at various airports. It added a fully staffed spare gate in each hub, reducing cases where airplanes sit on ramps awaiting gates," and made other behind-the-scenes changes to increase efficiency.
And good thing, too, because in an era of eroding demand and shrinking revenue, airlines simply cannot afford to be late, let alone dead last in on-time performance. So it's not surprising to see both US Airways and American pushing themselves to offer better service, just as it makes sense that US Airways would nix its pay-as-you-drink program. This is good for customers, of course, so let's hope more airlines realize it's time to raise their game.