On-Time Ramp Performance

I read an interesting story last week on how airlines are posting their highest on-time arrival rates since 2003. According to the Department of Transportation, more than 80 percent of flights at U.S. airports landed 15 minutes inside the scheduled times.

Of course, for a flight to arrive on time it helps to leave on time.

JetBlue Airways, often at the bottom of the on-time ranks, no longer requires all its passengers to be in their seats before the cabin doors close. That allows the jet bridge to be disconnected while the flight attendants make their final checks. And to ensure a quick turn, the airline now requires every employee onboard from the pilots to the CEO to pitch in and start cleaning up the cabin.

That’s shaved about four minutes off flight times for its flights between many of the country’s most congested airports in the Northeast. As a result of the time saved, the airline added an extra plane per day to its flights between Boston and New York.

“It is a game of 10 seconds here, 30 seconds here,” said Ian Deason, the airline’s director of airport operations in Boston, in the story I read published in The Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines, often at the top of the on-time leader board, enforces a number of tough rules for its ramp workers:

  • Ramp workers must be in position 10 minutes before an arrival.
  • One minute after a plane taxis to the gate, a mechanic arrives and the passenger door is open.
  • At the five-minute mark, the cleaning crew has to be on the jet bridge.
  • If bags are not on the carousel in 20 minutes, every passenger receives a $20 voucher.

However, everyone stands to gain from the precision of this well-orchestrated ramp work. For every month the airline reaches its on-time goals, every employee receives $50.