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Airlines “add to flight times” to avoid compensation

A new report claims that flights are scheduled as taking longer than they did ten years ago, despite aircraft improvements.

Flights appear to be taking longer than they did ten years ago. This is because airlines are “padding” their schedules to give the impression passengers are reaching their destinations on time, a report claims, reported by the Guardian newspaper today.

Carriers are adding 10, 20, even 30 minutes, to ensure they stay punctual – and to avoid being liable for compensation payouts, the Which? Travel investigation says after studying Europe’s biggest airlines.

Despite the many improvements in aircraft technology, most routes are advertised as taking longer than they did a decade ago.

The study looked at average flight times on 125 routes operated by large airlines in 2009, then compared them with last year.

It found that 76 of these routes, or 61%, now take longer, with 87% of British Airways routes found to be slower, 82% of Ryanair routes, 75% of Virgin Atlantic routes and 62% of easyJet routes.

For example, BA flights between Heathrow and New York, Bangkok and Singapore are 20 minutes longer today than they were 10 years ago.

Schedule padding
“Passengers are likely to feel that schedule padding is another case of airlines pulling the wool over their eyes,” commented Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor.

“Carriers are quick to claim that adding 10, 20 and even 30 minutes to flights will improve on-time performance. The accompanying slump in punctuality over recent years suggests it hasn’t helped much.

“Instead, longer scheduled flight times are likely to mean passengers spend more time sitting around at the gate or on the plane itself, just so the airline can pat itself on the back for being ‘on time’ at your destination.

“Conveniently, it could also reduce the number of instances when an airline has to pay you compensation for a flight delay.”

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