AA: It'll Take Longer To Get There But At Least You Might Not Be Late

American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey today told shareholders that the carrier has increased flight "block times" to improve customer service and become more dependable. Made quietly for years by certain carriers, such moves can generate better on-time performance rates and give the impression of speedier flights without any actual decrease in elapsed time. At least, they provide more realistic published schedules that have a better chance of being realized. [more] More predictability can only be a good thing for busy travelers.

American defined block times as "the period when a plane starts to move at departure until the parking brake is set at the arrival gate." It increased them since last year on "key routes that had become routinely delayed due to ATC and weather."

"Among other things, we adjusted the way we schedule our aircraft, flight attendants and pilots," Arpey added, noting that the airline also increased "the time planes spend on the ground between flights in many instances." American claimed the moves have worked, as its first-quarter on-time performance rate of 78 percent--while only sixth among the nine largest U.S. carriers, and worse than during the previous quarter--represented a nearly 15-point percentage improvement from a year earlier.