Back in 2013, at the US Airways media day, we heard Rob Isom explain some fascinating issues about flight ops. It was a truly educational experience in how to get an airline to focus on the crucial issue of schedule. Maintain the schedule and when that is accomplished, a lot of other things act in concert and your costs fall into line. Today Robert Isom is President of American Airlines Group and American Airlines, its principal subsidiary company. In this role, he oversees American’s operations, planning, marketing, sales, alliances, and pricing.
What can we see from the data that helps us understand how the airline industry in the US is doing? This is a busy chart so you might want to click on it to expand it.
The chart suggests that average carrier delays are volatile. Bear in mind what a carrier minute is worth – easily over $100/minute. Delays cost money, and with this kind of volume, serious money. Although the industry is profitable, it could be even more so were schedules met.
he DoT defines carrier delay as “The cause of the cancellation or delay was due to circumstances within the airline’s control (e.g. maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning, baggage loading, fueling, etc.).”
So what you see in the chart are lost minutes directly caused by the airline. Ideally what we want to see is less variance (you can’t get to zero in this industry). You also want to see a downward trend.
Look at Southwest, for example, they have made massive changes going to the 737-800. This should have slowed them down. And it may have played a role in moving them from below 15 minutes to above it briefly. But in January 2018, they were back under 15 minutes.
Mr. Isom’s American, on the other hand, shows a steady hovering around 20 minutes. But since September 2017, they are well over that.
Each airline’s curve no doubt has a story (excuse, explanation, etc). The chart does show us something not commonly reported.