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为何航空公司故意拉长航班时刻表?

更新时间:2019/6/17 17:58:14 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why airlines make flights longer on purpose
为何航空公司故意拉长航班时刻表?

In the 1960s it took five hours to fly from New York to Los Angeles, and just 45 minutes to hop from New York to Washington, DC. Today, these same flights now take six-plus hours and 75 minutes respectively, although the airports haven’t moved further apart.

在20世纪60年代,从纽约飞往洛杉矶需要5个小时,从纽约到华盛顿特区只需45分钟。如今,同样航班则分别需要6小时和75分钟,而实际机场间的距离并没有增加。

It’s called “schedule creep”, or padding. And it’s a secret the airlines don’t want you to know about, especially given the spillover effects for the environment.

这就是所谓的“拉长航班时间表”,或者称为“填补空余时间”。这是航空公司不愿让你知道的秘密,尤其是考虑到这么做会给环境带来溢出效应。

Padding is the extra time airlines allow themselves to fly from A to B. Because these flights were consistently late, airlines have now baked delays experienced for decades into their schedules instead of improving operations.

空余时间是航空公司给自己的班机从A飞往B的额外多余时间。由于这些航班一直晚点,为了改善航班准点率,航空公司不是去改进航班运营,而是在过去几十年将航班平均延误时间“填补”进他们的时刻表中。

It might seem innocuous enough to the passenger – after all, what it can mean is that even though you take off late, you’re pleasantly surprised to arrive on time at your destination.

对乘客来说,这似乎是无伤大雅的举动。毕竟,这么做就意味着即使你起飞晚了,你也会因为准时到达目的地而感到惊喜。

However, this global trend poses multiple problems: not only does your journey take longer but creating the illusion of punctuality means there’s no pressure on airlines to become more efficient, meaning congestion and carbon emissions will keep rising.

然而,这一逐渐遍及全球航空公司的趋势实际拥有着多重问题:不仅你的飞行旅程花费了更长的时间,而且还陷入准点的错觉,使得航空公司没有压力去提高飞行效率,而这也意味着航空拥堵和碳排放状况将持续恶化。

“On average, over 30% of all flights arrive more than 15 minutes late every day despite padding,” says Captain Michael Baiada, president of aviation consultancy ATH Group citing the US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report. The figure used to be 40% but padding – not operational improvements – boosted on-time arrival rates. “By padding, airlines are gaming the system to fool you.”

航空咨询公司ATH集团总裁拜亚达(Michael Baiada)机长以美国运输部所发布的航空旅行消费者报告举例说道:“即使在时刻表填补了空余时间后, 每天仍有平均30%以上的航班晚点15分钟以上。”这个数字过去是40%,利用填补空余时间,而不是改善操作运营,航班公司提高了10%准点率。他说:“航空公司正在以填补空余时间这个方法来愚弄大众。”

He says if instead airlines tackled operational issues, customers would directly benefit. “Padding drives higher costs in fuel burn, noise and CO2 which means if airline efficiency goes up, costs go down, benefitting both the environment and fares.”

他提到,如果航空公司尝试去解决运营问题,客户将直接受益。“利用填补空余时间改善准点率会带来燃料成本提高、噪音污染和二氧化碳排放增加等问题,这即意味着如果航空公司改善飞行效率,成本就会下降,这么做对生态环境和乘客票价都有好处。”

Of course, airlines know customers value punctuality. Delta Air Lines for one, goes to great lengths to ensure its flights are on time more often, according to the US Department of Transportation. Delta attributes this to a $2bn investment in new aircraft, cabins and airport facilities, but continually emphasises “on-time-performance” is a driver of higher fares.

当然,航空公司知道乘客重视准时。根据美国交通部的数据,为了确保航班准时,不少航空公司付出了很大的努力,达美航空公司(Delta Airline)就是其中之一。达美航空将航班准点归功于用了20亿美元投资在新飞机、舱室和机场设施上,但达美也不断强调“航班准时”是更高票价的驱动因素。

So, if arriving on time pays off for customers and airlines, why don’t the airlines work on efficiency instead of lengthening flight times?

那么,如果准时到达对乘客和航空公司都有好处,为什么航空公司不提高效率而是拉长飞行时间呢?

How late is late?

晚点多少算是晚?

The ultimate goal is ‘A0’, or arrival at the gate exactly on time. If a flight is early or late, it can disrupt several other things – like gate availability and airport capacity.

航空公司的最终目标是“A0”,即完全准时到达机场停机口。如果航班是提前或是晚到,可能会影响到其他事项,如可用的停机口和机场容量等。

There’s even a language for describing this punctuality. So, any delay beyond A0 adds the number of minutes the aircraft arrived late at the gate – A15, for an aircraft that’s 15 minutes late. But anything between A0 and A14 is not considered late by the US Department of Transportation. The DoT created this global standard for measuring “on time” before the advent of modern data and communications that, today, make A0 achievable.

甚至有一种术语专门用来描述飞机的准点到达。因此,任何超过准点A0的延迟都会以航班抵达停机口的延误分钟来计算,举例来说A15,即意味着飞机迟到了15分钟。但是A0到A14之间的任何延迟都不会被美国交通部(DoT)认为是晚点。在现代数据和通信的出现之前,美国交通部创造了这个测量“准时”的全球标准,而如今依靠填补空余时间让达到A0成为可能。

This means that airlines still have a window to hit to be ‘on time’, rather than a very specific slot – which can lead to congestion. Air traffic control must make allowances for this, because too many planes arriving around the same time overwhelms airports. So air traffic control stretches out aircraft approaches, slowing arrival rates.

这意味航空公司有一个余裕时间段来达到“准时”,而不是要求一个非常确切的抵达时间点,否则可能会导致航空拥堵。空中交通管制必然会容许这种弹性的准时,因为要是同一时间到达的飞机太多,机场会不堪重负。因此,空中交通管制扩大了飞机的抵达进场时间,减缓了抵达率。

To be fair, global airlines have invested billions of dollars in technologies to enable more efficient flight paths, according to industry body Airlines for America. But this has not moved the needle on delays, which are stubbornly stuck at 30%.

公平地说,据美国航空运输协会的数据,全球的航空公司已经投入了数十亿美元在飞行技术的发展上以实现更有效的飞行路径。但这并没有改变飞行时间延长的趋势,拖延率仍停留在30%的水平上。

A lot of different things can cause a delay but Baiada believes 80% of the factors involved – like schedule, airport arrival flow queueing, aircraft availability, gate availability, maintenance and crew legality – are within the airlines’ control. But to date they have left it to air traffic control to remedy once planes are in the air.

很多不同的因素都会造成延误,但拜亚达认为,80%的相关因素在航空公司的掌控中,包括航班时刻表的安排、机场到达流程与排队控制、可用的飞机、可用的停机口、以及有资格的维修和机组人员等。但至今为止,一旦飞机起飞,航空公司就会把飞机延误留给空中交通管制去设法补救。

“Once an aircraft is off the gate, the airlines forget about it until it arrives at the next airport,” he explains. Baiada says there is a better way – they could be tracking their aircraft and adjusting operations throughout the flight, managing aircraft sequencing, choosing flight speeds and paths leaving air traffic control to concentrate on separation and safe operation of the airspace.

拜亚达说:“一旦飞机离开停机口滑往跑道,航空公司就不管了,直至飞机到达下一个机场。”他说,有一个更好的方法能解决飞机延误的问题,航空公司可以追踪他们正在飞行中的飞机,调整飞行操作,并管理飞机的飞行顺序,及选择飞行速度和路径,让空中交通管制能集中精力于空域的分离和安全运行。

Part of the problem is schedules are designed by airlines for perfect conditions, Tom Hendricks, a retired airline executive, told BBC Capital. “But on any given day you might have weather, air traffic control or company network disruptions and the system must adjust.”

退休的航空公司高管亨德里克斯(Tom Hendricks)告诉BBC Capital栏目说,产生延误问题的原因有部分是因为航空公司设计航班时刻表时假设所有飞行条件都是正常的,“但实际上在任何一天,你都可能会遇到天气变化、空中交通管制或公司网络中断,以及系统必须进行调整等异常情况。”

But Hendricks believes on most days airlines could be doing more to ensure the flow of planes in to the airport is as efficient as possible as this is integral to their economic success.

但亨德里克斯相信,在大多数日子里,航空公司会采取更多措施以确保飞机进场的效率尽可能高,因为这对航空公司获得经济上的成功是不可或缺的。

Another option could be to reduce the number of flights – but airline flight schedules are designed to meet buyer demand. So, if there were fewer flights, fares would increase.

另一种选择是减少航班数量,但航空公司的航班时刻表是为了满足买方的需求而设计的。因此,如果航班减少,票价就会上涨。

Better late than never

晚做总比不做强

So are there any solutions on the horizon? One of the biggest assumptions is that modernising air traffic control will solve the problem. Billions of dollars in investment have in fact halved air traffic control-caused delays since 2007 while airline-caused delays have soared, according to a 2016 Bloomberg report.

那么,有什么可行的解决办法吗?最可能解决方案之一是空中交通管制的现代化。根据2016年彭博社的报道,事实上自2007年以来,数十亿美元的投资已将空中交通管制造成的延误减少了一半,而航空公司造成的延误却大幅增加。

Baiada has come up with a Business Based Flow Management (BBFM) system – which involves airlines working with air traffic control to optimise efficiency in the air. Tests in 2012 by four industry and academic bodies including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) validated BBFM at five airports. Overall it reduced delays, fuel burn, noise, CO2 emissions and air traffic control congestion, and rapidly increased capacity. Delta saved $74m in fuel alone, saving 635m pounds of C02.

拜亚达提出了一个基于商业的流程管理(BBFM)系统,该系统让航空公司参与空中交通控制以优化空中交通效率。2012年,包括联邦航空管理局(FAA)在内的有关行业和学术的四个机构在5个机场对这个流程管理系统进行了测试。总的来说,这个系统成功减少了航班延误、燃料燃烧、噪音、二氧化碳排放和空中交通堵塞,并迅速增加了航空容量。达美航空仅在燃料方面就节省了7400万美元,并减少了6.35亿磅的二氧化碳排放。

With airlines under pressure to cut costs, increase profits and reduce their environmental impact, why aren’t they already working with air traffic control on this?

既然航空公司面临削减成本、增加利润和减少对环境影响的压力,他们为什么还没有在这方面与空中交通管制合作呢?

“Airlines have invested in new technology before with mixed results,” Hendricks says. “They are now very careful [about] what they do invest in. This is complicated by the fact they are investing heavily in the technology required by global air traffic control modernisation now underway.”

亨德里克斯说:“航空公司以前就对此新技术进行了投资,结果好坏参半。他们现在对自己的投资非常谨慎。更复杂的是,他们正大力投资于目前正在进行的全球空中交通管制现代化所需的技术。”

Hendricks, who was working at Delta when it was testing Baiada’s technology, was a reluctant convert to the system. It took some analysis from university The Georgia Institute of Technology to counter his considerable scepticism. Even so, he says the technology has never been fully integrated and tested within the whole air traffic control system. While he is convinced there is great potential, he thinks BBFM needs that testing.

达美航空参与测试拜亚达的流程管理系统时,亨德里克斯正在达美航空工作,他对这项新技术是有怀疑的。佐治亚理工学院(Georgia Institute of Technology)对系统进行了一些分析后,他的疑虑才逐渐被打消。尽管如此,他说这项技术从未在整个空中交通控制系统中得到充分的整合和测试。虽然他确信有很大的潜力,但他认为流程管理系统需要进行全面测试。

So what does all this mean for passengers? With airlines gaming the system, as it stands, flight times will likely increase as more and more planes take to the skies.

那么,这对乘客意味着什么呢?按照现在情况,航空公司继续玩弄“填补空余时间”这一手法,即当越来越多的飞机升空,航班飞行时间也会相应地增加。

“Stalling tactics like padding flight times have become common practice for airlines," says passenger rights activist Paloma Salmeron, spokesperson for AirHelp. She claims this tactic not only enables airlines to claim they have improved on-time (OT) flight performance, but it also makes it easier to swerve the “magical three-hour limit” on delays – the threshold that qualifies passengers to file compensation claims at least under European Union passenger rights’ law.

乘客维权网站AirHelp的发言人萨尔梅陇(Paloma Salmeron)说:“像填补飞行时间这样的拖延战术已经成为航空公司的普遍做法。”她认为,这一策略不仅使航空公司能够声称他们的航班准点率得到了改善,而且还使航空公司更易规避航班延误“神奇的3小时限制”条款。根据欧盟乘客权益法的要求,航班延误超过三小时乘客便有权申请赔偿。填补空余时间实际是延长了这个3小时门槛的时限。

“Many airlines will try to make it tricky for passengers to get an eligible claim accepted and the tactic of extending flight times is yet another way to decrease a passenger’s chance of filing a claim and getting financially compensated for the hassle they have gone through."

“许多航空公司会设法让乘客难以获得合格的索赔,而拉长航班时间表的策略则是能够减少乘客提出索赔,为他们所经历的麻烦获得经济补偿的另一种方法。”

Yet this padding hasn’t solved aviation system woes that plague consumers.

然而,填补空余时间并没有解决困扰消费者的航空系统问题。

“There is a lot airlines can do to improve efficiency and Baiada’s solution is one of them,” says airline consultant Bob Mann. “When it comes to delays and congestion, airlines are still complaining it’s an air traffic control problem when it is not. My view is they should stop complaining and do something about it, benefiting customers, employees, investors and the communities they serve.”

航空公司顾问波布‧曼(Bob Mann)说:“航空公司可以做很多事情来提高效率,而拜亚达的解决方案就是其中之一。每当涉及到延误和拥堵时,航空公司仍在抱怨这是一个空中交通管制的问题,尽管情况并非如此。我认为航空公司应该停止抱怨,采取一些措施从而使他们的乘客、雇员、投资者和他们所服务的社区受益。”

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