Journal: TWUKSection:
Title: Issue Date: 02/04/01
Author: Page Number: 8
Copyright: Other

Clock keeps ticking on flight delays

No-one likes hanging around at airports waiting for a flight. But when airline delays are shown as being increasingly worse, year after year, what can be done? Louise Longman reports

The waiting game: the AUC’s table shows the average delay time for this year has increased to 40 minutes

FIVE years after the Air Transport Users Council launched its table to ‘name and shame’ the performance of charter airlines, evidence shows delays are on the up.

Despite Airtours International, Air 2000 and Britannia all improving their rank in the table of 20 airlines – Airtours moved from 19th position in 1996 to 12th position last year, Air 2000 rose from 10th place to sixth and Britannia climbed one place from fourth in 1996 to third last year – delay times have actually risen.

Five years’ ago, the average delay for Airtours International flights was 39 minutes. Last year, its average delay time was 53 minutes.

Delays with JMC Airlines now average 46 minutes, compared to 33 minutes in 1999. At Britannia, delays last year were an average of 30 minutes.

The poor performance of JMC Airlines, which was formed from the merger of Flying Colours and Caledonian, was described by AUC chairman Ian Hamer as “particularly disappointing,” especially as Flying Colours was named the most punctual carrier in 1997 and 1998.

JMC Airlines managing director Terry Soult said the integration of three airlines within 18 months and the challenges last summer – including problems in Corfu and Tenerife, and late delivery of aircraft – had a “greater impact on our punctuality than we either wished or anticipated”.

He added:”However we have acted swiftly to address punctuality issues and since November, our performance at all our UK departure airports has been much improved.”

The AUC’s league table was rubbished by carriers when it was first published in 1996.

But, according to AUC industry affairs advisor Simon Evans, this is no longer the case. “Airlines are now accepting there are things they can do. All charter carriers are facing the same problems, so how do some fair better than others?

“While we don’t want to prescribe what airlines should be doing, it’s obvious things aren’t always totally out of their hands,” said Evans

Areas for improvement are turnaround times, catering services and ensuring passengers get to the airport on time.

“Airlines should be asking themselves is their crew rostering right, is their catering contract delivering the food on time? Airlines have control over these things,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Airtours International complained the report focused on only 10of the 13 airports it operates out of.

“It doesn’t include the performance of our aircraft at other bases. If they were included, it would reduce our average delay significantly.”