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Time Talk

December 23, 1990

After arriving in New York City at 6 a.m., tired, irritable and in a mood to complain, our Savvy Traveler decided to publish an essay critical of inflated flight itineraries (Nov. 11), presumably because they are, he feels, misleading. Improved on-time performance statistics do not actually indicate improved performance, he complains; rather, the airlines have merely lessened their standards by padding their schedules.

But the Department of Transportation does not command that airlines report on-time performance based on last decade's schedules, nor is it concerned about maintaining those schedules. The purpose of reporting and the subsequent ranking is to encourage realistic scheduling and, thus, reliability.

Being reliable means performing as you stated you would. If an airline states it will arrive at 6:07 and it does, it has satisfied that standard technically and morally, it has satisfied DOT and it has satisfied, I'm sure, its passengers. What do I care, as a businessman, if I arrive 16 minutes later than I might have 10 years ago? Why should I care if the schedules have been padded? What concerns me is being on time for that 8 a.m. meeting.

As I read a critical article such as yours, I became eager to read the suggestions at the end. You made none. You could have suggested that Congress release the money in the Aviation Trust Fund so that airport expansions could be initiated. Those actions would reduce some delays. You could also suggest to God that he eliminate hazardous weather, possibly accounting for more delays than all the other causes combined. GREGORY A. HUSKEY Escondido

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