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Home > Air Travel > Do airlines have "spare" aircraft to deal with the ripple effect of long delays?
Do airlines have "spare" aircraft to deal with the ripple effect of long delays?
Flying - Air Travel
Saturday, 21 January 2006 18:01

Hi Capt Lim,

How does an airline deal with the ripple effect of a long delay due to, e.g. engine problems or hurricane? Do airlines have "spare" aircraft to deal with such situation?

Lets assume a Qantas flight; QF10 from Singapore to Melbourne was delayed by 12 hours. This particular aircraft was supposed to be utilized for the next flight to Los Angeles 3 hours after scheduled arrival.

How do airlines overcome this problem?

Thank You

Andrew

Hi Andrew,


As I have mentioned in my earlier FAQ
, flight delays are part and parcel of air travel today. Yes, the ripple effect of long delays, not only makes passengers unhappy, it is costly to the airlines too!

How does an airline deal with this? If airplanes were cheap, then major airlines would keep a few spare planes! But, with a Boeing 777 costing around US$175 million each, it does not make economical sense to do so.

Flight delays caused by engine problems or hurricanes are normally problematic, but if well handled, a major airline can minimize the delays by juggling the planes available from the other flights. If no suitable planes were immediately available, most airlines do have a rule: Try to inconvenience the fewest number of passengers as possible. For example, on a flight out of Melbourne to Los Angeles with 300 passengers - many of whom are making connecting flights to elsewhere and there is another plane leaving for Auckland with 50 passengers, an airline may cancel the Auckland flight and use the plane to fly to Los Angeles instead.

Other possible solutions - "pinch" another plane leaving slightly later, or alternatively, the airline may delay a maintenance schedule (as allowed by the regulations) and use this particular plane, thus averting any further wrath coming from some infuriating passengers and saving the day for the plane schedulers!

Sometimes a short delay of 45 minutes due to mechanical problem can push a take off time past an airport's night curfew. Sydney airport, which closes at 11.00 pm is a good example. It has caused me more stresses than the passengers when I was told that I must start the engines by a certain time on a schedule departing at 10.30 pm! If the plane cannot take off by 11.00 pm, then the flight might have to be delayed till the next morning. Yes, you can imagine the possible ripple effect that it will cause to other flights in the system if not well managed!

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