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Improving on-time performance is key for airports and airlines in a competitive environment. How to go about it?

Improving on-time performance is key for airports and airlines in a competitive environment. How to go about it? – By Ahmed Haouaria

05 Jan 2020

One of the few constants in a highly dynamic industry such airlines is the need for travelers to arrive at their final destination or connecting airport on time. 

Whether it is a 14-hour long-haul flight, a less than one-hour connecting flight or just a domestic flight, the exactitude of scheduling the flights and providing the stated on-time performance (OTP) is critical for both airlines and airports.

Planning and organization apart, bad weather, strikes or many other exogenous factors can influence the reliability of flights with a delay to a morning departure potentially having a knock-on effect for flights for the rest of the day. At a slot-constrained airport if an aircraft misses scheduled departure or arrival time it could have huge consequences and generates important costs especially, for example, around late night operations.

The air traffic market is growing fast, causing word skies to be more and more overcrowded than ever. This fact has started to affect the operational performance of air traffic.

What is On-Time Performance, OTP and why is it so critical? 

More and more flights departing and are arriving later than initially scheduled. Consequently, not only airlines, but also airports, are constantly considering ways to improve their on-time performance OTP. This is a question of competitiveness where the best airlines are zoomed and evaluated accordingly.

Airlines measure On-Time Performance OTP by daily analyzing at the percentage of aircraft departing and arriving on time throughout their regular network. In my former Airlines, we used to meet daily with all concerned departments to speak about Day – 1 delays and each delay was referenced and assigned to a specific department whose management would bring the actual reasons and potential corrective actions. 

Another weekly meeting was also scheduled to have a watch on the promised corrective actions, their application and their efficiency. Numbers and graphs are produced by the Business Intelligence Department on monthly basis to make sure the OTP is following the positive trend decided by the company. The benefits of an efficient OTP policy are long term assets. First, it brings more passengers satisfaction ensuring their planned travels balance. Moreover, it attracts more airlines that seek to optimize costs - a common Airlines challenge. 

On-Time Performance Improvement: What is the plan?

Taking into consideration the above elements, it is vital for both airports and airlines to constantly improve their on-time performance. What is the plan then?First, an airport should bring out the actual picture with the root causes of delays, such as bad weather, fuel, late baggage load, Catering load, crew members presentation, late passengers, or delayed take-offs because the airspace is too crowded to get take off clearance .Consequently, airports and airlines need to list and understand which they are able to proactively prevent. Airports being responsible for gates planning, the airports use for example PDC StandPlan which is a decision support system used by airports for planning the assignment of stands and gates in an airport. Gate and stand utilization is thus optimized preventing aircraft congestion on the ground while also providing an outline that enables augmented capacity.

What about 2019 numbers ?

Delays, cancellations ... When you fly, leaving and especially arriving on time counts for many passengers. Punctuality has therefore become a priority for airlines in recent years. Each year since 2009, FlightStats, the American company, publishes its prize list in this area. It scrutinizes more than 400 carriers, taking into account 85% of commercial flights worldwide.Basically Airlines are assessed based on the actual arrival times of their flights versus the scheduled arrival times. In air transport, punctuality is measured with a tolerance of 15 minutes. These 15 minutes take into account various factors that the carrier does not control such as airport congestion, taxiing time to the landing gate, or the availability of a gate, which is usually managed by the air traffic control or the airport. What you have to understand when you look at statistics is that there will always be delays, these are the vagaries of air travel. And even if companies are on a mission to get you from point A to point B on time, the most important thing is that they get you there safely.The fact remains that the plane is always and by far, the safest means of transport in the world, the airlines no longer hesitate to put punctuality as a commercial argument to convince passengers to join them on board. OAG (Official Aviation Guide), global provider of travel data and information, has just published its "Punctuality League 2020", a complete ranking of the world's largest airlines and airports for their punctuality performance (OTP, on -time performance).

According to data collected by OAG in 2019, the South American company LATAM Airlines ranks as the largest airline of the world's most punctual (1st; OTP 86.41%), closely followed by the Russian Aeroflot (2nd; OTP 86.30 %). In the top 20 airlines (over 30 million passengers per year), six European carriers mentioned: Air France (7th; OTP 79.92%), British Airways (14th; OTP 76.18%), Lufthansa (15th ; OTP 73.96%) and easyJet (17th; OTP 73.08%). OAG notes that Air France's OTP went from 74% in 2018 to 79.92% in 2019, a nice progression.

As for the major airports (more than 30 million users per year), the most punctual in the world, are Moscow-Sheremetyevo (1st; OTP 86.87%), Tokyo-Haneda (2nd; OTP 86.60%) and Singapore-Changi (3rd; OTP 84.03%). Four European platforms manage to place themselves in this Top 20: Madrid (6th; OTP 79.92%), London-Heathrow (13th; OTP 75.27%), Munich (15th; OTP 74.97%) and Paris-CDG (20th; OTP 73.67%).

The global market is almost at its best in terms of punctuality," said John Grant, analyst at OAG. “The performance increase is led by the major airlines such as Aeroflot, Delta Air Lines and Air France, which simultaneously increase the number of flights operated and maintain a high OTP. We see success spilling over to the hubs they serve, which benefits the entire travel ecosystem. "

About FlightStats Inc.

FlightStats, part of FlightGlobal, is a cutting-edge data services company focused on providing real-time global flight data to companies and travellers across the travel ecosystem. We strive to tell the “story” of a flight – from what’s expected, to what is happening now, to what happened. We deliver these stories via our Data Services, and through our FlightStats-branded web and mobile applications. We believe flight data is valuable and is made even more valuable when delivered in conjunction with other contextual data. We manage multiple data sets that relate directly to or intersect with flights – trips, weather, and other aviation-related data.Securing 100% reliability is the holy grail, but airlines will monitor their performance from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month to ensure they are delivering a reliable schedule and that performance levels are being maintained or improved by developing an operation that is resilient to disruption and able to catch up more quickly when disruption occurs. 



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