Here’s one top designation Bradley International Airport officials wish they didn’t have: the airline with the worst on-time record in the nation departs daily from Windsor Locks.
Continental Airlines Flight 2979, run by its commuter affiliate ExpressJet, departed from Bradley and landed on-time just 11.9 percent of the time at its Newark destination in November, the most recent month available for arrival and departure statistics by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
John Wallace, Bradley’s director of communications, said the flight’s consistent late arrivals in Newark is out of Bradley’s control. “In a lot of cases it could be external weather factors that causes a delay,” Wallace said.
Blaming Weather, Air Traffic
Continental blames the flight’s poor record on “weather and air traffic control,” said airline spokeswoman Mary Clark. Airlines don’t distinguish between the two, she explained, so she couldn’t provide a breakdown of which was the culprit more often.
However, Clark did say that the flight is scheduled during a peak traffic period when congestion causes the delay and that November was a “particularly bad month for weather problems.”
Continental Fight 2979 is scheduled to depart from Bradley daily at 4 p.m. and arrive 77 minutes later in Newark at 5:17. According to federal regulations, the flight is late if it pulls up to the gate after 5:32 p.m. The flight, which averages about 31 minutes of flying time, has 92 minutes to make the trip.
Unofficial flight statistics provided by FlightData.com indicate that the flight was on-time only about 18 percent of the time over the last two months.
Continental and its affiliate ExpressJet combined for four of the top eight delayed flights in November, according to DOT statistics. All four flights had ties to New York area airports.
Newark, one of three major airports in and around the busy skies of New York City, ranks second to last among the nation’s 32 largest airports with an on-time average of 60.9 percent. New York’s LaGuardia is the worst with an arrival rating of 53.5 percent. Its neighbor, John F. Kennedy Airport, is the nation’s 29th worst with an on-time average of 73.4 percent.
Bradley, the nation’s 53rd largest airport, has an on-time arrival average of 75 percent, according to the federal statistics.
Salt Lake City has the top arrival average among the nation’s top airports at 88.5 percent.
Continental won’t revise its flight schedule for its Bradley afternoon flight. “It’s difficult to take one month and use it as a guide for planning,” Clark said. Flight schedules are typically set months in advance. “Our goal is to get our customers where they want to go when they want to get there,” she said, adding customers don’t need to plan for delays on this flight all of the time.
Jim MacPherson, spokesperson for AAA Corporate Travel Services, said most business travelers have experienced waiting in an airplane for a slot to land. “The tendency is they don’t want planes circling around New York for obvious reasons,” he said. “They have a tendency to not let you take off until there’s a slot to land. There certainly are air traffic control issues that surround New York airports.”
The FAA’s Eastern Region Air Traffic Division is redesigning the airspace in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan area to reduce delays in the area. The closeness of the airports results in complex pilot/controller and controller/controller coordination and circuitous flight paths. The current airspace environment is inefficient for aviation users, according to the FAA’s Web site.
Air traffic control, Continental’s Clark said, operates a ground delay program. During peak travel periods, she said, planes can’t land until a space opens up. “If it can’t land, it can’t take off,” she said.
MacPherson’s advice for business travelers is to book their trips through a travel agent that provides 24-hour-a-day telephone support. “That way you don’t have to stand 40-deep in line at the airport to rebook your flight,” he said.
Airlines set their own schedules, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Tammy Jones, noting that the basis for a flight’s tardiness is determined by the time the airplane departs from its assigned gate to when it arrives at its destination and then parks at its assigned gate.