A BUTTERFLY flaps its wings in Davao and a flight from Manila lands in Bangkok 12 hours later four hours behind schedule. Possibly, the butterfly flapped its wings and flew into the eye of a baggage handler in Davao chain causing a comical Rube Goldberg chain of events involving a crate of inflated beach balls and a banana.
In any case, flights do get delayed and the delays tend to pile up, a pilot with a local airline says.
A typical day for an Airbus A320 could start with an early morning flight from Manila to Davao and back, and then from Manila to General Santos to, let’s say, Cebu. Then, maybe a short hop to Bacolod and back. It will then head back to Manila to fly people from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok.
If anything goes wrong on any of the legs that day, the whole timeline is affected. What could go wrong? Lots of things, apparently. Aside from mechanical problems, flights can be delayed by pregnant women giving birth on the tube between the terminal and the airplane, and by people coming to the airport late. Arriving at the airport 45 minutes before the flight is not the same thing as being checked in 45 minutes before boarding, he says.
“We try to accommodate people who come late but there has to be a limit to that because baggage has to be loaded at some point,” he says.
Planes can still get back on schedule by loading baggage faster or flying in good winds. That may be for naught, though, if flying into Manila. NAIA has too few runways and Immigrations counters, which means it is only operating at 48 percent capacity.
“Even if we get back on schedule, we might still be delayed,” he says. He says planes sometimes have to circle over NAIA to wait for a clear runway. They are also sometimes told to slow down while en route because of congestion,my pilot friend says.
If an airplane breaks down, that means even more delays. If the airline does not have a spare plane to dispatch, they will have to “do some magic,” he says. Planes could be diverted to pick up the stranded passengers, which means a delay on the timelines of both the grounded plane and the one sent to relieve it.
Airlines do rush to fix delays but there is only so much they can do with the people and airplanes they have.
Even though it may seem that way to the stranded and stressed passenger, delays were not purposely planned to punish you for taking a budget airline. You might just be an unlucky duck.