Every traveller and airline executive knows the place of importance 'on-time' departures play for the reputation of the airline and the convenience of travellers; particularly where connecting flights are involved.
These days, flights are increasingly filled to capacity. If a delay occurs on one sector, this inevitably means that even an hour's difference in arriving at an airport will mean that passengers are unable to connect with the next leg, and therefore will be unable continue their planned itinerary. The hapless airline employee is left with the task of not only rescheduling those flights, but dealing with irate and upset passengers.
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson, a Baptist minister recalls a few years ago that he and his wife had scheduled a flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast for a 9.05am departure. They had paid for this flight on-line six months previously.
The aircraft coming from Melbourne was initially delayed due to fog and then there was a mechanical fault and the flight was put pack several more times. Eventually he and his wife arrived at the Gold Coast airport at 5.45pm rather than the scheduled 10.10am.
There were five flights that day to the Gold Coast between their scheduled flight departure. The few empty seats on each of those flights were filled by delayed passengers, determined by the order of checking-in at the counter on that morning.
Afterwards M V Tronson wrote to the airline that the order of filling those empty seats should have been by 'booking dates', as he and his wife had booked six months earlier. He had important meetings that day and a speaking engagement that had to be cancelled and put back to the inconvenience of many.
This is only one of innumerable examples of the disarray involved when flight delays occur. The reasons for delays are many, from the weather, delays of incoming flights, mechanical issues, air traffic control being overwhelmed, departure queues at the airport, problems with luggage-loading and any number of other issues.
Mark Tronson recalls another situation in 1989 at Charlotte USA, a city which is a vital flight hub for America's mid south. The aircraft he was on was the twenty-first in line, with each aircraft moving up one by one as the previous aircraft took off. He has spoken about that encounter to frequent US travellers, who have indicated nothing much has changed at Charlotte. A similar situation exists, in a smaller way, at many major airports, including Kingsford Smith in Sydney.
Now, we hear of another reason for a major flight delay – and this time it had nothing to do with mechanical issues, incoming flight delays, storms or high winds. No, it was the Vancouver Winter Olympic Ice Hockey Final between Canada and the USA where the scores at full time were locked.
Mark Tronson wishes to explain the place that Canadian Ice Hockey holds in the psyche of Canadians. This is the National Sport, the iconic childhood pastime, the focal point for families, the talking point for the nation. It represents everything that Canada purports to be.
Moreover, Canada was playing the 'giant' USA in this 2010 Winter Olympic Final; their arch rivals, with an ironic twist that many of the Canadians plays in USA franchise Ice Hockey Clubs and vice versa. (Hockey Chapel plays a significant part in all these professional teams). And there is more – Canada had never won a competition such as this on their own soil (ice) previously.
So why was the flight delayed? The passengers, en masse, speaking with one voice, refused to leave the terminal building until the Ice Hockey Final was over and the result decided. Mind you, it proved to be a delightful flight as Canada won in extra time. "Delay? What delay?" - No-one cared a hoot!