It was not a promising beginning…. “I’m so sorry but your flight from Winnipeg to Toronto is cancelled.” Stunned, we explained we had onward flights to Brussels then Bombay so we really HAD to reach Toronto.
En route to the airport, we had just been discussing how in Canada planes now never fly empty. Why? If there aren’t enough passengers to make it somewhat viable, the flight is cancelled.
The good thing was the woman helping us immediately grasped our quandary and overcame all sorts of impediments to get us on the next flight to Ottawa connecting immediately to Toronto in time to change terminals and catch our international flight – provided NOTHING was delayed.
She further sweetened our situation by waiving the extra baggage charge and provided sufficiently generous food vouchers to cover coffee, breakfast and lunch to-go.
In Ottawa, we literally got off one plane walked to the next gate and got on another plane – a process that took a grand total of 5 mins door-to-door with the flight taking off 15 mins later. We couldn’t help speculating whether our luggage would manage to make an equally efficient transfer – thankfully it did!
Despite the grumbling, the reality is that Canada remains much more reliable than other places for on-time travel and relatively few cancellations. In fact, Toronto is in the top 10 most reliable busy airport in the world! And both Air Canada and WestJet were considered North America’s top 10 most reliable airlines in June 2013. When you expect everything to function on time, it’s a shock when it doesn’t. Contrast that with much of Asia where it is a delightful surprise when anything functions as promised!
For example, China is notorious for delays and cancellations and features in the least reliable busy international airports. Less than 30% of Shanghai flights leave on time. Beijing is even worse – less than 20% of flights leave on schedule. According to Chinese civil aviation reports, over 500,000 flights were delayed last year.
I’ve certainly fallen victim on more than one occasion. A simple 2.5 hour flight from Shenzen to Shanghai took 13 hours and was re-routed to Zhoushan Putoshan Airport which boasts a run-way considered too short for the fully laden 747s that regularly make un-planned stops. When I think about it, I can’t recall even one flight taken in China that was actually punctual – just varying degrees of lateness.
One would think India would be equally bad. And there was a time that it was! However investment in airport infrastructure and most importantly strictness with check-in and boarding times has made a massive difference. Today, with traffic equal to London’s Gatwick or Newark airport, it may interest you to note that New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International has a higher on-time score than both! Only 1 percent of New Delhi departures were cancelled and delays are weather related such as the ubiquitous fog / smog in winter.
It seems in this one small way, India is more reliable than China. And for my Canadian friends – yes it is inconvenient when flights are cancelled or re-routed. However spend a little time in China before you complain too much!
PS Anyone curious about where I found my ‘reality check’ stats, see www.flightstats.com
What is your best or worst travel timing experience?
- Beijing and Shanghai named world’s least punctual airports (wantchinatimes.com)
- An interactive map of the world’s best and worst airports for flight delays (washingtonpost.com)