Virgin and Punctuality

Flightontime has just published its annual review of airline punctuality for 2010. As with all statistics, you really have to look behind the bare figures to get a proper understanding of what is happening. It is pretty silly to single out BMI Regional as the country’s most punctual airline – the airline flies to and from uncongested regional airports so it has none of the problems most other airlines have to face. Similarly, we think it rather unfair to pick on Jet2 as the least punctual. It is easy for some shorthaul airlines (especially budget carriers) to massage their figures because they simply cancel flights when they are faced with a delay. Jet2 makes a serious effort to carry passengers to their destination. What would you rather have – a delay of two hours on your flight from Newcastle to Murcia or an offer of a refund and a flight next Tuesday?

However, there are some pretty obvious trends you can pick out of the tables and we are surprised no one has picked up on the very poor timekeeping by Virgin Atlantic.

They come in at 26 out of 30 at Heathrow ahead of Air India and Turkish Airlines. At Manchester, they are number 30 out of 35 and 28th out of 30 at Gatwick just ahead of Libya’s Afriqiyah Airways. These figures are fractionally worse than last year but Virgin were fairly low then as well. To be fair, a delay of 45 minutes or so on a ten-hour flight might not be the end of the world but, other carriers can leave on time so why not Virgin?

Strange Goings-on in Blackpool

Blackpool’s airport has been losing money for a long time. It desperately needs more airlines and passengers.

We might have a little sympathy with the airport operator when they allowed Ryanair to leave because they could not agree terms. Ryanair is notoriously tough with airports and it is quite possible the contract did not make sense for the airport. However, the departure of Ryanair left them with just a handful of regional flights, a few summer charters and Jet2 who had a contract to base an aircraft at Blackpool.

You might imagine that Jet2 was a rather important customer for Blackpool.

Also, being professionals, they no doubt understand that a budget airline has to make its aircraft work hard – that means early starts and late returns.

The airport is obviously losing money heavily and needs to cut costs.

So what did they do? They announced that from the end of October, the airport would only be open from 7 in the morning until 9 in the evening.

Jet2 went to the High Court and the verdict given yesterday was a fairly stinging rebuke for the airport.

Henceforth, they must use their “best endeavours” to accommodate Jet2.

Britain has rather too many small airports who are struggling for business and, with or without a recession, one or two will have to go. Cutting costs is unavoidable but there comes a time when costs are cut to such a level that an airport can no longer attract airlines or passengers.

Treating your last remaining major customer in this way does not show great business awareness.