Our new fastest flights interactive, which launched Wednesday, may help you spend more time at your destination and less at the Sbarro in Terminal D. It can tell you which airlines perform the best on which routes and which airports you should avoid if you can.
Our method operates on the same principle you do when you’re angry because your flight is late: It finds someone to blame.
But how does the government assign blame?
The government has one way of assigning blame. It asks airlines to report the reasons for their delays in five categories: security, weather, national aviation system, late arriving aircraft and carrier. You might think of the first three categories as “no-fault” delays (as in: no fault of the airlines), while the airlines deserve blame for the other two.
The problem is these categories are fuzzy. Did that aircraft arrive late because of a thunderstorm at the previous airport (presumably not the airline’s fault) or a mechanical problem (presumably so)? Some airlines are better than others at keeping their networks intact under challenging weather or air-traffic conditions.2 Plus, the causes are reported by the airlines.
So how do they determine which flights are fastest?
So what’s our solution? We don’t look at airlines’ scheduled flight times at all. Instead, we compare them against the distances they fly and adjust for the airports they fly into and out of.