There are also on-time incentives for Alaska Airlines employees. For every month the carrier hits its goals, each of its 10,000 employees gets $50.
“Missed connections cost a lot of money; putting people up in hotels costs a lot of money,” said Ben Minicucci, chief operating officer for Alaska Airlines.
Besides, he added, “your brand takes a bruising” if it isn’t reliable.
Several airlines have been concentrating on improving baggage procedures to save time. American Airlines upgraded the hand-held devices baggage handlers use to keep track of luggage. When overhead bins start filling up on a Delta Air Lines flight, gate agents walk down the ramp as passengers board and check in carry-on bags using computers near the plane’s door.
American and other airlines have also given passengers the option to pay a fee to board early, which reduces congestion on the jet bridge. Japan Airlines has started meeting with rail and bus companies to learn about measures they take to deliver passengers on time. Southwest Airlines put a recovery plan in place for flights affected by weather or mechanical problems, isolating delays to routes with the least overall impact on passengers.
As with most airlines, Southwest keeps tabs on chronically late flights. One on the watch list is Flight 2460, a 7:45 p.m. Nashville-Austin route that was 37 minutes late on average. The airline traced the major cause of the delay back to much earlier in the day in Houston, where planes are swapped out of the system to undergo scheduled overnight maintenance. The operations center is now instructed to avoid using planes on the route that need such routine upkeep in hope of bettering arrival times.
Steve Hozdulick, senior director of operational performance at Southwest, has a long list of reasons why being timely matters so much: It reduces labor costs, puts crews in the proper locations, keeps connections flowing, and delivers bags more quickly.
In short, he said, “It’s the foundation for the improvement of everything that you do.”