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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

According to recently statistics published on, the Spanish airline company Iberia was the least punctual airline in July 2010. Scandinavian Airlines, also known by short as SAS, was the least tardy of them all, sticking to their schedules impressively well.

The study included European-based airlines only. SAS performed exemplary with 94% of their flights departing on time. Iberia finished in last place with only 45.9% of their flights departing at the scheduled time.

Low cost airlines scored rather average. Easyjet was the lowest scoring with only 52.7% of their flights departing at the scheduled time. Ryanair on the other hand scored much higher, with 69% of their flights departing on time last month.

As for British Airways, they only managed to get 68.2% of their flights off the ground at the scheduled time in July. When it came to landing at the arrival destination, 14.9% of BA’s flights were considered late (less than 30 minutes). Delays longer than 45 minutes made up 9.1% of its flights. BA cancelled more than 110 of its flights in July, no doubt due to the airline’s prolonged cabin crew strikes.

Why are flight delays so frequent?

  • The main reason for flight delays is air traffic congestion. Traffic is rising more and more each year (at a rate of about 5% annually) as airlines add more routes. Safety rules and regulations have also become more stringent. Aeroplanes must be at least 2km apart in the sky and air traffic controllers need to predict arrival times and coordinate in efforts to get everyone on the ground at the right time. This however doesn’t always happen as planned, causing arrival delays.
  • Airline companies also depend on allocated air space. Air space is not only used by commercial airlines like British Airways and others, but by private jets, small carriers, cargo, military, etc. All of which need to share the sky. Less air space for commercial airlines though results in an increase of traffic which means more delays.
  • The airlines themselves aren’t totally off the hook though, waiting longer than protocol for a late passenger for example. Airlines often have to juggle between being punctual and showing that last rushed passenger a little mercy.
  • Technical problems also play their part, keeping aircraft on the ground longer than expected. Crew strikes and other personnel problems can also contribute, as we saw this summer all over Europe.

It’s hard to blame it all on the airline when your flight is delayed and arrives late, keeping your family waiting at the arrivals gate or pushing your meetings back on an already rushed business trip. However, from a passenger’s point of view, it’s hard to blame anyone but the airline, isn’t it?

How do you handle your flight delays? Are you the Zen traveller that just gets there when you get there or you blow your top as soon as you’ve noticed the plane hasn’t taken off yet when it should have.

Whether late or right on time, you can always count on finding cheap flights on

Img: flickr cc / Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Departure Gate

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