Bad news for fans of transparency. According to PlaneBusiness, Both Comair and Pinnacle, regionals operating primarily for Delta, will stop reporting their on time performance information to the Department of Transportation (DOT). That sucks, but it’s somewhat understandable considering the circumstances. Let me explain.
First of all, let’s start with the rules. The DOT requires that airlines report their operational stats for public consumption if they have more than 1 percent of total domestic scheduled service revenue. Lame, right? I mean, every airline should be required to report. I’m all for transparency. But that’s a different story. Why are these two pulling out?
Well, Comair has been the incredible shrinking airline lately, and it’s now less than 1 percent of revenues so it no longer has to report. Pinnacle, meanwhile, has never been big enough to be required to report, but it did it out of the kindness of its heart. Now it’s decided to change course. Bummer.
But what would prompt this? My guess is that it’s related to the way the DOT makes airlines report, and Pinnacle and Comair don’t like it. I know we’ve talked about this before, but let’s talk about it again. On time performance and other operational stats are reported by operating airline. So if you bought a ticket on Delta to fly from LA to Atlanta, it will show up as Delta. But if you bought a ticket on Delta to fly from Atlanta to Greensboro, it’ll show up under Comair’s stats and not Delta’s.
Now tell me this, do you care what Comair’s on time performance is? No. You bought a ticket on Delta, so you care what Delta’s stats look like, and that should include all of its regional partners. After all, it says Delta (Connection) on the side of the airplane.
But why would that make Comair and Pinnacle stop reporting? It’s because they are, as regionals, doomed to be near the bottom in general. When the weather goes bad, airport capacity goes down. The mainline airline (let’s stick with Delta since we’ve been using it so far), has to make decisions about what flights can go and when. The goal is to displace as few passengers as possible in those situations, and that usually means the regionals take the brunt of the delays and cancellations because they fly smaller planes.
Let’s look at the November Air Travel Consumer Report, while we’re at it. It doesn’t help to look at the overall numbers, but it does help to look at airport-specific ones because that’s where the weather issues really pop out. And what better airport to look at than JFK, the king of weather problems?
Now, the most recent report was for travel in September and the weather was mostly good this month, but you can still see this effect:
It’s possible that Pinnacle and Comair are just running worse operations than Delta, but even if they’re running the best operations around, they’re still at the whim of Delta when flights need to be impacted. So why deal with that when you can just not report? Apparently that’s what Comair and Pinnacle have decided to do. That leaves ExpressJet as the only reporting airline that isn’t actually required to report, but since it’s going to be merged into Atlantic Southeast, that’s a moot point anyway.
I really wish the feds would require all airlines to report. This arbitrary threshold of 1 percent of scheduled service revenue is just goofy.