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Why airlines will not tell you how long the flight

Ever wondered why you have so much time just waiting at the airport?

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Or you will always get to the airport hours before your flight or you waltz in minutes before the cut-off time, which you spend more time waiting than you should.

The arrival and departure times airlines share with their customers often do not match up with how long a plane must actually spend in the air. Airlines exaggerate how long a trip takes, so that even if there is a delay, the plane still arrives “on time” is a strategy known as “schedule padding.”

The Telegraph reported that between 1996 and 2015, the allotted time for a flight from London Heathrow to Scotland is Edinburgh has increased significantly, despite the improvements in technology, almost entirely due to the schedule padding. An AirTran Airways pilot confesses to Reader’s Digest that “the airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals, so that they can say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes.”

To make matters worse, the definition of “on-time arrival” not that it’s cut out to be. Flightstats.com a site that issues awards for on-time performance (OTP), counts every flight that lands within 15 minutes of the specified arrival time. Even with that generous definition of on-time, airlines try to take into account everything that possibly can go wrong.

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“We regularly review our flight plan and timing to ensure that we can meet our published departure and arrival times, and the customers can plan their trips as” a British Airways spokesman told the Telegraph. “The weather conditions, the type of aircraft, the air traffic control restrictions, the airport infrastructure and geopolitical considerations will all play a role in the decisions we make about whether or not to increase or decrease of each route is published flight time in our plans.”

While there is still room for improvement when it comes to the way airlines manage their flight schedules, 15 minutes really isn’t that big of a deal, all things considered, but don’t go to be impressed next time that your flight arrives on schedule.

This article originally appeared on the Travel + Leisure.

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