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!