If it seems like flight times have been getting longer and longer, it might not just be your imagination. To avoid compensating passengers for delays, airlines have been “padding” their schedules by listing longer flight times to give the impression that flyers are reaching their destinations on time. A study conducted by Which? Travel found that many flight routes today are longer than they were 10 years ago, even though aviation technology has vastly improved.
By comparing 125 flight routes from 2009 with the same routes in 2017, researchers found that 76 routes (61 percent) now take longer — or at least, are scheduled to take longer. British Airways in particular was found to be slower, with 87 percent of their flights now listing longer travel times than they did 10 years ago. British Airways flights from Heathrow to Bangkok, New York, and Singapore were all extended by 20 minutes, while a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to Newark now takes an average of 35 minutes longer than it did in 2009.
While airlines may claim that adding 10 or 20 minutes to a scheduled flight will help improve punctuality and on-time arrival, Which? Travel editor Rory Boland disagrees. “Longer scheduled flight times are likely to mean passengers spend more time sitting around at the gate or on the plane itself,” he told The Guardian, “just so the airline can pat itself on the back for being ‘on time.’” And, of course, to avoid those delay compensation fees.
However, the practice hasn’t actually translated into punctuality. According to Which?, British Airways, easyJet, and Ryanair all saw a 10 percent decline in their punctuality last year when compared to 2009. And the reason for the slower service might not come as a surprise — planes are flying at slower speeds to reduce fuel consumption, which enables them to offer cheaper fares.