Somehow the Final Connection Is(n't) Made


The NYT today reports the bleeding obvious: Flight delays are getting worse. More interestingly, the way delays are recorded does "not begin to capture the severity of the problem. That is because these statistics track how late airplanes are, not how late passengers are." So a missed connection might show up as a 1 hour holdup even if results in a 3 day delay:

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did a study several years ago and found that when missed connections and flight cancellations are factored in, the average wait was two-thirds longer than the official statistic. That finding prompted the M.I.T. researchers to dust off their study, which they are updating now.

Some other airline delay statistics, meanwhile, are getting a fresh look, as well. After thousands of passengers were stranded for hours on tarmacs in New York and Texas this past winter, consumer advocates began complaining that Transportation Department data does not accurately track such meltdowns.

If a flight taxies out, sits for hours, and then taxies back in and is canceled, the delay is not recorded. Likewise, flights diverted to cities other than their destination are not figured into delay statistics.

The article suggests that one reason for worsening delays is that flights are increasingly full, which makes missing a connection far costlier than it used to be. (It misses the chance to speculate on the TSA's role.) But one aspect of flying that goes unmentioned is the ever-lengthening gap of time needed to just catch a plane in the first place. There was a time, not so long ago, when leaving one hour to get an international flight was a little risky but not unreasonable. Nowadays, it's hard to imagine security wouldn't just laugh in your face as you struggle with a multitude of shoes, belts and zip-lock bags.

Elsewhere in reason, read Julian Sanchez on the TSA's "no-fly list" and Jacob Sullum on the liquid ban.