I was recently flying back from Hyderabad to Pune. A few minutes after checking in, I received an SMS message alerting me to a 90 minute delay. Instead of 2055, the flight was now scheduled to leave HYD at 2230. No reason was given for the delay. Not a great situation but not particularly disturbing either since I’ve suffered much worse flight delays before.
At around 2215, the airline made an announcement that its flight # so-and-so had arrived from Bangalore and would now proceed to Pune. After a few minutes, boarding for the PNQ flight was announced. When we were asked to get into a coach, I was wondering why we needed a bus to reach the aircraft that we could see was parked just outside the terminal. Once inside the coach, I was making some polite conversation with the coach driver about some fancy gadgets mounted on the dashboard. It was then that I incidentally learned that the airplane meant for PNQ had arrived way back at 1800 itself and was parked far away from the terminal. It was to board that aircraft that the bus ride was required.
Why then was our flight delayed? Apparently, the pilot for PNQ flight had failed to report for duty. The airline had to requisition a replacement captain from Bangalore, who was the one who had arrived in the flight from BLR. The aircraft from BLR did not fly to PNQ. Midway through the flight, the captain regretted the delay, saying that it was caused due to the delay in arrival of the aircraft from the previous flight. Although he was evidently trying to cover up for his truant colleague, his announcement was a blatant lie.
Flight delays are nothing new. Most passengers have gotten used to them by now. But, I doubt if they’ll get used to airlines lying to them about reasons for delays.
This is just one of the games airlines play with their customers.
A few years ago, I used to travel from London to Manchester quite often. Default mode of travel would be the superfast Virgin Pendolino train from Euston to Crewe. Once, I’d to visit Manchester over a weekend. Like most weekends, train service on this and other routes all over England was severely curtailed due to repair works, so I’d to take a plane. I was surprised to find the flying time shown as 1h15m when the train took only 1h50m. When the flight actually landed in Manchester airport a mere 25 minutes later, I inquired around. I discovered that airlines inflate flight duration substantially so that, even if they get delayed, they can claim excellent punctuality record.
During the HYD-PNQ flight, I realized that airlines in India have also learned this trick. The HYD-PNQ ticket showed a flight duration of 1h30m whereas the stewardess announced that it would take 50 minutes to cover the distance, which is what it took.
These are just a couple of games that airlines play. If readers know of others, please share your experiences in the comments.