Every Single Big Ol’ Jet Aero Liner

By Robert Bestor

I love the internet and try not to take it for granted. As we all know, it has everything. And though it has everything, for me, websites can almost all be placed into two categories: 1) those with vital and valuable information and data that allows me to educate myself and make quality decisions, and 2) those that offer little more than mildly amusing, time sucking, and mindless “entertainment” that distracts me from doing whatever it is I really should be doing. 

While that may be a slight over-simplification, I do find it to be true. I also find that, wonderfully, there are some sites that fit simultaneously into both categories. FlightAware.com is an excellent example. It is both highly informative and can be a fabulously fascinating waste of time. On top of that, to me, it’s a mind-blowing example of modern technology.

Simply click this link. On this FlightAware.com page, in real time, you’ll see every single commercial flight currently operating over the United States. Hit the zoom out button a couple of times and you’ll see every single commercial flight currently operating everywhere in the world!

Then click on any one of the plane icons and you’ll get information like departure city, arrival city, elapsed time, time remaining, aircraft type, air speed, altitude and more. How’s that for starters? FlightAware offers much more. I’ve done a decent amount of browsing and am still drilling down and finding new and fascinating data.

It does have practical purposes too. I used it recently to check the on-time history of a winter flight we had scheduled. FlightAware’s data informed us that at the time, the flight had recent history of both significant delays and cancellations. We had a tight connection to make, and due to weather, the odds of us making it were not in our favor. So for a minimal change fee (story in our March e-News) we switched to an earlier flight and removed all doubt. 

FlightAware integrates real-time data from thousands of sources worldwide. And I do not have the brain power to imagine how they tie all together so neatly and seamlessly. But I sure do find it handy, entertaining, and amazing to get the latest data on any flight anywhere on the planet.

Oops. Looks like Tap Portugal flight #22 from Lisbon to Salvador, Brazil is running 22 minutes late. It’s scheduled to land at 9:00 pm local time. I wonder if they’ll be able to make that up? I see that it’s an Airbus A330-200 twin jet currently traveling 526 mph at 38,000 feet. Looks like it’s been late a few times recently……etc., etc., etc,.


Hurry Up and Wait

by Nancy Bestor

Delayed FlightsOn our recent trip to Hawaii, our outbound flight was delayed four hours in San Francisco. We left Medford at 5:30 am, and then had to wait from 7am until 1pm at SFO before continuing our journey to Kona. Let’s see… We had breakfast, which killed about 45 minutes. Then we walked to the bookstore and bought a couple of magazines (another 15 minutes). Then we sat, and sat and sat and sat. Shockingly, Bob even grew tired of reading box scores on the internet. Ironically, when we finally boarded our United flight to Kona, the in-flight magazine included a letter from the United president, apologizing for increased delays on United flights nationwide, saying they strive for “on-time performance.”

In a recent look at travel news, I noticed that in September, American Airlines posted record delays, with anywhere from just 50-70% of flights arriving on time, far below their target of 82%. They too apologized, with an email to their frequent fliers saying that an unusual amount of mechanical delays and pilots calling in sick resulted in the slowdown. I’ve read that the airline industry’s overall percentage for delayed departures fluctuates between 15-25%, with certain airports & airlines reporting much higher and lower delays. An American Eagle flight, with a route from Newark to Raleigh/Durham is the worst offender. This flight is delayed by an average of 48 minutes 73% of the time. That’s right—73% of the time.

If my business offered bad customer service 73% of the time, I’d have no customers in weeks, maybe even days. If we had a product that failed 73% of the time we’d immediately stop offering it and we’d find something better. Airlines can apologize all they want. But the proof is in the pudding. I don’t want to wait four hours in San Francisco because of a plane change. I bought services based on quoted schedules that worked for me. If I’m not getting those services, I deserve some kind of a refund. It’s just too bad the airlines don’t see it that way.