Quite honestly in the whole scheme of things, DL
pads their schedules with the least amount of time throughout the majors. UA
is the biggest padder (not a real word, but it works in this instance) out of them all. One of the number of examples from my flights with UA
over the summer is we left the gate on my flight from TPA
about 30 mins late, sat in line on the taxiway for almost 40 mins, and still arrived 30 mins early.
I have to say that in my 10+ years working at the airport (CSR/CSS/AM) I have seen most of it. While I have seen some interesting delays come up with the mainline flights, the majority of the questionable delays came up with the regional airlines.
In our FLIFO (flight information) screen, it shows the time of departure/arrival/equipment/any MELs pertinent to the airport employees (ie no pets in cargo hold)/W/B if it was an RJ
. There was always a remarks section that usually filled in when there was a delay. Now when a delay happens and its within the time frame to start giving vouchers (meal/travel) it would autopopulate whether it was going to be DL
Pay or Pax Pay. So lets say DL5000 from xxx-yyy is delayed due to a mechanical problem (whether upline or it broke upon arrival) it would autopopulate our FLIFO remarks saying "3A---Mechanical. DL
PAY". This tells the agent helping you whether it is okay to A) issue amenity vouchers and/or B) place you on another carrier if DL
cannot. Conversely, if there was an ATC or weather delay on the flight, one would see "6C---Upline weather. PAX PAY". That means the passengers are basically on their own.
I am not here to talk about the morals of making people pay if the weather system is clearly over a particular airport or in and around the airport but have a passenger tell me that their brother's sister's aunt's dog's brother's cousin looked outside a window and didn't see anything. That's for a different discussion/thread, albeit a fun one for me.
's system delay notification system is triggered when a flight is running at least 30 if not 15 mins behind schedule. I have seen flights go from being 3-4 hours late to leaving the gate a few minutes before the original scheduled time. I have seen times where DL
's OCC and whatever regional carrier's OCC fight back and forth between times. It could be as simple as a 5 minute difference to delay coding. Pinnacle and Comair are/were notorious for changing delay codes to say it was an upline ATC or weather delay when in reality it was a mechanical delay.
You see, the reason why the regionals like to default delays to ATC and WX
delays is because they are responsible and get the bill for any amenity voucher given out. The problem is, unless you have an agent who can see what's going on on a bigger scale, most of the time the agent will log in and see PAX PAY and tell their passengers the same.
You have to remember, the gate agents usually focus on their one flight at a time. As a supervisor, I supported that behaviour because that means they will be focusing on the details, printing up paperwork, clearing HKs into seats, clearing upgrades if applicable, taking volunteers if need be, boarding the flight, answering questions, making announcements, tagging baggage/strollers/wchrs/etc, helping folks down to the aircraft or any folks with limited mobility onto flights. The list goes on and on.
I made it my job to verify that each passenger that walked through that door received the same treatment equally. The only problem is that I know what's going on at all gates but not everyone else did. So if there was a delayed flight, I simply asked each agent if they had a question to call me to make sure that whatever given delay code is in the system that it is in fact correct. If what was in there didn't make sense, I would make sure it would get corrected.
It isn't a perfect system. And being out of the airline biz for a year and holding mid-tier status on all three airlines in the US, I know how both sides of the fence feel.
Just an aside and back to the OP for the ATL
question. You will not see a whole lot of gate changes to different concourses or even 10+ gates down when it comes to ATL
. For one simple, expanded reason. Logistics. Much like any airport, you have people assigned to work the gate and the ramp. There isn't just a single one flight that gets switched around. Let's say you were supposed to arrive at A3
and you see across the alley that B6
is open. Why not turn right instead of left? For one, there won't be a gate agent there nor a ramp. Secondly, let's say that you do go into B6
, what happens to the aircraft that is supposed to go there in less time than it takes to turn your flight? Now they have to find another gate or make that aircraft wait. Thirdly, checked bags end up in baggage "piers" when they are transferred from one plane to another. Now potentially 100+ in checked baggage will have to be dropped back into the sort system and brought back to the correct pier. That could take potentially up to 15-20 minutes to do that. Plus, bags have a greater chance of being caught in the system and not making the flight. There are a few other examples to go with this, but the biggest thing is passenger movement. Now you have to get 100+ people from one concourse to another. Someone's running late and when they started running, they saw A3
, they get there and now they have to run back to B6
Waiting 10-15 minutes to park at the gate is annoying, but in the greater scope of things it helps the organized chaos that it ATL
or any large hub function, if even for a microsecond better.