Costs of Flight Delays on You!

If you don’t like delays, get a private plane.  They leave when you board, on time, every time.

I like to travel just like the next guy, and to tell you the truth, I have only had one bad experience with flight delays that I still complain about.  It was a 16 hour delay to Cancun, Mexico, and it was absolutely necessary because the plane was unsafe to fly due to an engine problem.  I lost some of my beach time and got no compensation even when I asked (I stopped flying with them).  Others delays I had are usually less then an hour, due to Joe Biden Flying into Love Field once, or a bird strike on landing they had to check out.  I have been pretty lucky overall and haven’t experienced a major delay problem.

I was reading an article online about how Air India will fine unruly passengers for causing delays.  They said this should help people to behave better, and help pay some of the costs of the delay.  I then of course started to think how much does a delay cost.  Air India could fine you up to $23,000 for delays over 2 hours.  So I did some research on the topic and found some great financial reasons why you should never delay a plane.  Below is a UC Berkeley chart from 2007 showing how much it costs everyone to delay a flight.

Direct cost of air transportation delay in 2007

Cost Component Cost
(in billions)
Costs to Airlines $8.3
Costs to Passengers $16.7
Costs from Lost Demand $3.9
Total Direct Cost $28.9
Impact on GDP $4.0
Total Cost $32.9
I found that these numbers have remained steady or increased slightly over the years, and that on average 30% of all flights in the USA don’t arrive on time.  They say on time is within 15 minutes of the set arrival time.  Most airlines are happy with a product that is on time 70% of the time.  You may not be happy with 70%, but there will always be delays and 100% is nearly impossible for now.  The best is Southwest, which I use for about 75% of my flights, and they are hovering around 80% on time.  My last flight with Southwest from New York to Dallas actually landed 20 minutes early at the end of the day.  I was seriously excited, because we were coming home from Europe, and it made for a long family day.
So how does a delay typically happen?  It can be something such as a radio needed a replacement, a bird strike, of course weather delays (which I forgive easily), a crew change, luggage issues, over booking, anything mechanical, a clean up from a rough ride, or what ever you can imagine.  Delays are going to happen and when extra fuel, pay to employees, vouchers, and all the other costs factor in, it means your plane ticket will cost more if delays are happening.
If you notice the chart above it is estimated that half the cost of flight delays is paid for by the passengers.  $16.7 billion comes out of our pockets!!  So, the way I see things is very simple if we all want to save money on travel.  Help the airlines stay on time!  Stop bringing on too much carry on, stop boarding slowly, stop not having your ticket ready when boarding.  Get off the plane faster, and help those around you do the same.  If someone is unruly on a plane, then that costs you money in the long run.  Help that person realize the world doesn’t revolve around them, and lets all fly together with cheaper prices.  We are all on the same plane, and all want affordable travel, so work with the airline, and with each other, to make everything run more efficient.  Show up early, and be ready to travel.  Know the rules and follow them, so there are no more delays.  Our airlines costs can come down and we all have control over a large part of the delays.  Make the change and save some change.
*On a side note with the United Incident, the entire problem there could have been avoided if people understood more clearly what was happening.  I was most surprised that no one volunteered for the $800 voucher and another flight, because that is a great deal for taking the next flight.  I’m not sure on a plane full of that many people that everyone knew that was the offer.  Heck, I would have left my wife and kids, and took the next flight for that deal.  It would have paid for our next weekend get away for me and the wife.  The worst part is now that United delayed their flight, to forcibly remove a passenger, is actually cost everyone money and kept the prices higher.  They also settled with that passenger, and it cost the rest of us even more money to pay for their settlement, from their own lack of common sense.

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