Fashionably Late – Is It Time To Update What We Mean By ‘Late’?

22 October 2019 / by Becca Rowland


Fashion is all about keeping up with the new and, for some, taking the lead where others will follow. In its latest report, Defining Late: Is fifteen minutes the right measure? OAG kick starts the discussion about how ‘late’ is defined in the context of airline and airport OTP and considers if the time is ripe for a change?

We use the informal industry standard that assumes a flight departing within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure time or arriving within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time, is considered to be on-time. It’s informal because there is no official standard created by the likes of ICAO, IATA or ACI. Airlines and airports use different measures for different internal purposes but when it comes to benchmarking performance, the industry seems to have settled on 15 minutes.

But is there a case to be made for defining late as 20, or even 30, minutes beyond the schedule? Would this result in less padding of schedules and airlines wouldn’t feel the pressure to build in a buffer against delays? Would it be more realistic and achievable for airlines and airports battling congested skies, and busy infrastructure? With so many factors out of the control of any one party, having a little more wriggle room might seem fairer to all concerned.

Our thinking then turned to how this would impact different sorts of flights. While 30 minutes delay on a long-haul flight may not seem so bad for passengers, long flights are often able to make up for departure delays en-route. Not so for short haul flights.

In weighing up the options we are very conscious of the need to balance simplicity and ease of understanding of what on-time means, with the need to create and maintain a meaningful tool for the industry, and the travelling public. Have a read and let us know what you think? What is important to you in measuring punctuality? Do we need to re-think how we define ‘on-time’?

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Topics: Airlines, On-Time Performance

Becca Rowland

Written by Becca Rowland

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