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The truth about flight delays


Summer solstice marks the start of the season, but the Fourth of July is the day people really start getting serious about summer. I know this because this morning, my inbox was full of articles with predictions about and examples of the frustrations of summer travel. Late planes, long lines, missed connections—all this and more, included in your very own vacation.

This New York Times article (free; registration required) tackles the sticky subject of delays, and explains that they are calculated by how late individual planes are, not by how late passengers are. Those long waits passengers endure because of missed connections and canceled flights are not being accounted for, but a study estimated that when passenger delay times were factored in, it boosted those delay times by a full two-thirds. The airline industry, in using the wrong statistics, is effectively ignoring the very core of customer dissatisfaction. And it shows.

The article then delves into all the other issues that may make for longer delays and overall unpleasant experiences. This greatest-hits list includes thunderstorms, the stretched-thin air traffic control system, and airline employees who have recently taken big pay cuts.

Is there a bright side? Sure. Even with delays, you’ll still get there faster than if you bicycled to your destination. At least most of the time.

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