Home > Contemplations, Fail > Airlines: Does Your Definition Of “On Time” Differ From The Rest Of The World?

Airlines: Does Your Definition Of “On Time” Differ From The Rest Of The World?


Note: I have, on purpose, removed details of which airline the flight I am referring to is operated by. I am not trying to indict one airline. I do not know if all airlines are guilty of this or if it is just the one. I see no reason to start shouting from the rooftops which airline this is. If you recognize the website, fine. If you figure out based on the flight arrival time & your own research, fine – but you have waaaaay too much time on your hands!

I am about to head out to Pearson International Airport to pick up my friend who is arriving from England for a visit so naturally the first thing I did, knowing his flight is supposed to land at 5:55, is check the arrivals listings.

I first went to Pearson International’s shiny new website (http://www.torontopearson.com) and checked the arrivals listings:

OK,  so it is going to be delayed by 10 minutes. No big deal, actually helps me out because I am running a bit behind schedule myself. No harm, no foul.

Then, on a whim, I decided to go to the actual airline’s website and see if they were telling a different story in regard to the flight’s arrival. Here is what I was presented with:

At first when I saw the green “On Time” indicator at the top of the page I thought to myself, “Cool! Pearson’s website was wrong! The flight is actually on time!”

Then I thought, “Oh, CRAP! I now have 10 minutes less to get my butt out the door!”

Then, I looked closely at the page and saw the bottom where it lists the arrival information. Scheduled to land 17:55 with a revised landing time of 18:05. How is that “On Time”? Can I go for a job interview 10 minutes late and tell them I am TOTALLY on time because “Airline X” considers it on time? I should apply for a job at this airline and when I arrive late break out this screenshot and ask them to prove to me that I am late since by their own definition of “on time” I am exactly that.

The kicker here, ladies and gents, is that the flight managed to depart from Heathrow 2 minutes early. Not a big head start by any stretch of the imagination but it is an early take off. Still, Airline X is managing to be late and yet claiming they are on time.

Amazing. All I can do is shake my head and laugh.

Airliner silhouette picture above via http://www.airplaneclipart.com/free_airplane_clipart/airliner_silhouette_0515-1011-1111-5502.html

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  1. June 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    You think that’s bad? When I returned from St. Lucia in February we were over 2 hours late and no one was notified. By the time I landed, was processed through customs and waited for baggage (1/2 hour before any bags came down the carousel), my parents had been waiting for me for 3 hours.
    Air Canada’s website did not mention any delays. I’d set up a notification to be emailed to my dad in case of any changes but none was sent. The monitors at the airport all indicated that we were on time. We took off from St. Lucia early but there had been a snow storm and one of Pearson’s runways was closed but the aircraft didn’t have enough fuel for us to circle. So, we had to stop in Trenton to refuel. Some passengers watching the seat-back maps noticed the detour and correctly speculated before the Second Captain announced it.
    (My cell phone wasn’t working there so I couldn’t call my parents, but they had left home by the time we landed in Trenton anyway.)

    When I tried to complain on Air Canada’s website the form was broken and when I tweeted, A/C customer service told me to fill out the form and didn’t answer further tweets. I never did get my complaint in. I really should have phoned, but got on with my life. I’m lazy.

    The 10 minute thing I can understand: It was on time for the revised time, except late for the original time. It’s a dumb and unhelpful way of presenting the information, but it’s not wrong. It’s their way of trying to make themselves look good (“Look, we’re on time! But check the fine print.”) but they kind of make themselves look like asses. Your job interview analogy doesn’t work. As an interviewee, you’re expected to leave early & aim to arrive early in case of unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes an interviewee can alter their plan for arrival (e.g. take another route or transportation method). Aircraft can’t do that, and they’ve got a number of natural forces (wind, weather).

    • June 27, 2011 at 12:51 am

      “…it was on time for the revised time”? Sorry CanadianFoodieGirl but to me that statement makes no sense. The very fact that there is a revised time means it is NOT on-time. If a flight is scheduled to land at a specific time you can be one of three things – Early, On-Time, or Late for that scheduled time. If the time for landing must be revised then you are no longer on-time you are now either early or late. The end.
      My going for a job interview analogy was, to me, clearly meant facetiously and to drive home the point.

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