Delayed Departure: Flying Smarter This Holiday Season

NBC Connecticut Investigates uses data to tell you where, when and with which airlines to expect delays this holiday season.

Jetblue Flight Generic Plane Turns Around

A flight doesn’t take off on time, you’re late to your final destination, or you miss a critical connecting flight. It doesn’t get you in that holiday spirit.

“You just sit there and your connection time is getting smaller and smaller. And then eventually you know you missed your connection and they still can’t give you proper information because they don’t know either”, said Bridget Connors, who was visiting Connecticut.

NBC Connecticut Investigates has drilled down on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data on flight delays, and while we can’t solve your flight delay problems, we might be able to help you avoid or anticipate them.

FAA data reveals the best time to fly is 5 or 6 in the morning. 

The best days of the week are Tuesday and Wednesday, while the worst days of the week are Thursday, or Friday.

The data shows that the major airlines with the highest percentage of departure delays this year were JetBlue and Frontier, each at 27% through August.

Delta so far in 2019 was the major airline with the fewest delays, at just 16%, according to FAA data.

None of the airlines responded to requests for comment. 

And what about airports? FAA data indicated Las Vegas has more than 40% of its outgoing flights delayed, so what happens in Vegas apparently stays a little longer than expected.

Here at home, Bradley International Airport had one of the lower percentages of flight delays when compared to other mid- and large-size airports.

Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon said for the most part, Bradley is at the mercy of how well, or poorly, the airlines perform.

“What we look at, are the services that are directly in our control. Things such as navigating through the terminal better, parking at the airport, roadway congestion at the airport.”

When it comes to tracking delays, Travelers United, which calls itself the nation’s largest traveler advocacy group, said the feds could do a better job.

Travelers United said the FAA’s definition of a late plane is 15 minutes or longer, and they believe it should be one minute.

“What we don’t have today, is we don’t have the ability to find out what time flights really arrive,” co-founder Charlie Leocha explained.

Leocha said he does not expect the standard for a late plane to change anytime soon.

However, artificial intelligence may provide some relief from late flights in the future.

California based Hitachi Vantara has been using laser sensors to increase the speed at which travelers get to, and get on, a plane. The artificial intelligence can detect everything from when a TSA or ticketing line is overflowing, to when a plane’s overhead storage bins fill up.

Hitachi Vantara spokesman Justin Bean told NBC Connecticut Investigates, “If they’re going to board and there’s no room for their bag, we want to know that before they get on the plane so we can just put it under the wing and they can smoothly board the airplane without that worry and take their seat…and help the airplane take off, on time.”

The Connecticut Airport Authority said there are also a variety of technological improvements coming to Bradley that should give travelers more information to help them avoid and anticipate flight delays, so stay tuned. 

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