Airline Punctuality Stats – The Chinese Way

So here’s a little pop quiz – what percentage of flights in China depart on time? 50%? 75%? As a reference point, in the 9 months to September 2010, about 74% of flights from London’s Heathrow took off within 15 minutes of the advertised time.

According to the latest results, China Eastern is the best performing Chinese airline with just below 80% of flights taking off on time. How can that be I hear you cry. I’ve certainly heard many complaints specifically about that airline so it seems like it can’t be true. Interestingly, the method of calculation in China is different from many other countries. In China, a flight is considered on time as long as the doors are closed within 15 minutes of the advertised departure time and it doesn’t matter when it actually takes off. So those flights we’ve all experienced, where the doors close and then you spend 3 hours sat on the plane without moving are “on time”!

So, that 80% isn’t looking so unbelievable now, is it!

The questionable methodology isn’t entirely useless. You can still get some insights from the results. For example, since the method is consistent across all Chinese airlines, it’s still true to say China Eastern is the most punctual. But we’re assuming that they do not abuse the closed door definition more or less than the other airlines.

And the trend is clear too – over the years punctuality is getting worse, since in the previous years the top airlines were reaching over 80%. This isn’t a big surprise though given the exponential rise in air travel.

And now you all know why you often board a plane on time then spend the next 2-3 hours stuck on the ground with the doors closed!

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6 Responses to Airline Punctuality Stats – The Chinese Way

  1. BT says:

    China Eastern the most reliable?!!! They don’t have the flight number prefix MU for nothing you know!

    MU = Massively Unreliable.

    My flight last week to Beijing (snowy Wednesday) was due to depart at 9am. We sat and sat until we eventually moved at 10.40 (plane deicing apparently). On arriving at Beijing I checked that useful little flight app China Flights to see how late we were. 15 minutes apparently. They had actually ‘rescheduled’ the flight so that it was, drum roll . . . “On Time!”.

    Flight Track is a little more accurate and correctly has the flight as 1hr 42 mins late.

    TIC

    We got to our client just as the meeting was about to start.

  2. T. says:

    Me, I look at the bright side that we no longer have to fly CAAC everywhere. (China Aviation Always Cancels. . . or China Aviation Almost Crashes)

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t know why they would ‘fix’ the stats like that, they aren’t fooling anyone. I did take a flight recently from Dalian to Shanghai on China Southern and that pulled into the parking bay pretty much exactly on schedule. I was very impressed!

  4. I was gonna say, 75% of the flights I’ve been on were late, but when you came with that second piece of the puzzle it all made sense.

  5. bub says:

    But you forget the adverse conditions in China, I mean there is that monkey who periodically escapes from his cage in the air traffic control room and runs amok pushing all sorts of buttons and stuff, I mean imagine working under those conditions

  6. WoAi says:

    @BT – That’s actually pretty tame for flight delay nightmares but I feel your pain. And I will certainly be adding those two apps to my iPhone so I can play the game too next time I get stuck.

    @T – You could do a similar thing with BOAC.

    @Michael – Yes, I’ve been on flights that pulled away from the gate BEFORE the scheduled departure time as everyone was already on board. It does happen.

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