Airline Scheduling:

Airline Practices in Establishing and Maintaining Connecting Times

RCED-88-207: Published: Sep 30, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed airline procedures to determine: (1) how they established, publicized, and enforced connecting times between flights; (2) whether current scheduled connecting times were too short; (3) if there were carrier policies regarding holding outgoing flights when incoming connecting flights were late and keeping spare aircraft in reserve to replace those that developed mechanical problems; and (4) if there were any unusual circumstances that would increase the likelihood of missing connections at the three airports reviewed.

GAO found that: (1) for on-line connections, a carrier sets whatever time between flights it believes is a reasonable minimum for the airport; (2) for inter-line connections, the airlines serving the airport agree to a standard minimum connecting time; (3) although there are no formal mechanisms for ensuring that airlines do not schedule connections allowing for less than the minimum airport connecting time, the airlines will not accept responsibility for transferring passengers and luggage for connections that are below the minimum time; and (4) publishers of airline schedules do not list connections which do not adhere to the established airport minimum. GAO also found that: (1) airlines have procedures for adjusting minimum times that are too short; (2) airlines usually allow more time for connections than the minimum established times; (3) airlines hold flights in some cases; (4) some airlines maintain backup aircraft to compensate for delays and mechanical problems; (5) complaints about missed connections have grown in proportion to the overall increase in complaints about all flight problems; and (6) some airports' physical layouts and work-force problems increase the likelihood of delays.

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