United Airlines claims it just had its “best summer every in company history” for on-time performance. To demonstrate, it presents this infographic:
(click to enlarge)
And indeed, the numbers look great. In my own United flying I encountered few delays (other than an airport wide problem of insufficient gates and long wait times at LAX and EWR) and many early arrivals.
United should be applauded for improving its operational performance, even if was so bad in previous years that its new numbers are rather more satisfactory than exceptional. United now offers a highly competitive onboard and in-air experience, competing more closely with Delta and frankly leaving American (with its aging aircraft, inferior lounges, and poor domestic in-flight dining offerings) behind. With United Polaris on the way — which will lead to a dramatically upgraded experience in business class — United seems to have finally turned the corner.
In an internal memo, Network Operations VP Tracy Lee attributed the improved on-time performance to three things:
- The hard work of our employees around the system
- Process changes and investments we’ve made across the system
- Schedule changes that facilitated improved performance
#3 — padded schedules — cannot be underestimated. Going just off the flights I usually find myself on rather than any official number crunching, block time for flights is about the same as in previous years. The key is longer time on the ground between flights, eliminating the ripple of downline delays when turns are scheduled too tightly.
This is good news for United: I hope that this operational performance improves even further during the autumn months.