Airlines have taken to padding their flight-duration times to keep flights arriving on schedule, thanks to stiff competition and the aviation regulator's tough laws on flight regulations.
Interestingly, this is despite Indian carriers having one of the youngest and the newest fleet of aircraft in the world.
After tough new guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA) in October last year, most Indian carriers chose to add minutes to the scheduled duration to ensure that late flights officially arrive "on time" and help them smoothen their operations.
According to DGCA norms, if a particular flight is delayed several times in a month, the airline may lose its time slot when the next schedule is drawn up.
If airlines fail to stick to their allotted departure times, they could be sent to the end of the queue, where they will wait for a vacant time slot to emerge. This is mainly practiced at busy airports like Delhi and Mumbai, which have the highest air traffic congestion.
"Those numbers can have a real effect on public perception. Airlines block time and this practice has grown simply because airlines have been making so many scheduled changes. The economic slowdown forced airlines to cut flights and reduce congestion at many airports and in the skies but they continue to pump up schedules," said Ankur Bhatia, managing director, Amadeus India and executive director, Bird Group.
For instance, Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai flights of scheduled airlines like Air India and Kingfisher Airlines take an average of 1.55-2 hours while most low-cost carrier (LCCs) maintain a slightly longer time slot.
"Earlier, we had lesser time slots for flight schedules. These have now gone up, especially for flights connecting metros," Bhatia added.
Air travellers are a little confused.
"It seems like the airlines are cheating. If you start late, you are bound to arrive late. But if you arrive early, well, it is something which has to be seriously rectified by the airlines," said a frequent flier.
For some airlines, longer schedule times for flights reflect their inefficiency and also the aviation infrastructure, which is still unable to handle the volume of flights without delay. For others, increasing and blocking time to pump up schedules boosts their on- time rankings.
"As a matter of practice, airlines generally chose to cushion their flight duration times to ensure that their flights arrive on schedule and they maintain a good record. They use historical performance of flights to estimate the scheduled time," said aviation expert Harsh Vardhan.
"But airlines also face congestion and other ground problems at airports. Also, new-age aircraft offer marginally higher speeds than old aircraft. But that has hardly helped as the number of aircraft has increased dramatically," he adds. Also, some airlines have merged their schedules at bigger airports to increase their connecting opportunities, adding to congestion at peak hours.
The industry is of the view that this is a practice largely witnessed in India as the industry has lesser manpower, more congestion at airports and lower financial strength to remain afloat.
Courtesy: Mail Today