A British travel service reported Monday that airlines are padding their flight times to avoid payments for late arrivals.
Carriers have added extra time to flight schedules, as much as 30 minutes in some cases, to give travelers the impression that the flights arrive on time, the British travel service Which? Travel reported. It noted that 87 percent of British Airlines flights, and 75 percent of those by Virgin Atlantic, were slower in 2017 than in 2009. A Virgin Atlantic flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Newark Liberty Airport near New York City is now scheduled to take 35 minutes longer.
European Union rules offer refunds to passengers if flights are delayed by three or more hours, with accommodations for bad weather or other circumstances outside the airlines’ control.
The practice is known as schedule padding, and the Which? Travel report suggests it is spreading to many airlines. In 2017, Hong Kong Airlines was rated the best in the world for punctuality, with 94.8 percent of flights classified as on time, or touching down within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival. It was later revealed that the airline simply extended the scheduled arrival time on several of its routes.
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“We saw on-time performance was a problem, so we allowed extra time,” Hong Kong Airlines Vice Chairman Tang King-shing said.
British Airways cited congestion at airports as a reason for adding minutes to flight schedules.
“Airlines know this airspace congestion is likely to happen, so may allocate an extra five minutes in their schedule publication times to reflect that busy environment,” a British Airlines said.
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Some 20 percent of the British Airways flights analyzed in the report had increased flight times of 10 minutes or more.