Our earlier post on this matter elicited a good suggestion. So we went back and took a look at the data by block hour for 2009, 2010 and 2011 through August. The charts are shown below. We selected JFK because it is frequently thought of as among the worst airports for delays. The three biggest users of the airport provide useful insight of operational performance on taxi times.
While its true that later in the day delays climb steadily. The peaks are at the end of the day with (most likely) flights headed to Europe. We are inclined to stick with our assertion that the data indicates Delta struggles with JFK departures. jetBlue does no transatlantic flights, but American does. And looking at end-of-day numbers shows that American manages to perform really well by comparison. Even if one were to argue that American has fewer flights at the later block hours, its departures are managed relatively better.
As one can see jetBlue has flights leaving much later and they seem to have very few delays at these hours, indicating the conga line at the end of the day has cleared by then.
We believe the on-time data provides a useful look at airline operations, offering a guide on future financial performance. If an airline is able to demonstrate few operational delays this inherently means it has an ability to maintain a schedule. Given that airlines are businesses that must seek the lowest cost of production to be successful, every minute of delay eats away at the bottom line. And every minute gained while others are delayed means relatively better performance.
As we have seen with airlines such as Southwest (and a few others), staying on-time and doing quick turns is a model for success. Schedule is the primary decision driver for business flyers who pay the highest fares. Stick to a schedule and you attract the higher fare traffic. Nothing irritates a passenger more than unplanned delays. After all, travelers (especially business travelers) know the value of their time.