Flying somewhere? Check out these numbers (but don’t panic)

By | July 20th, 2007

I’m getting a little weary of all the stories about how flying is so unbearable this summer, about how maybe we should just stay at home and lock the door. The numbers tell a different — and slightly more complicated — story.

I asked Flightstats to pull a few stats for the first half of the year, and took a hard look at them, month by month. Its data supports my own experience flying this year.

Bottom line: it’s bad, but not as bad as the industry’s “experts” are saying. Not by a long shot.

For the first half of 2007, airlines have trimmed their schedules by a meager one percent compared with the same period in 2006, according to Flightstats. Six percent fewer flights are arriving ontime, and cancellations have roughly doubled over the previous year.

But most of the cancellations took place in February, March, and June, and appear to have had a lot more to do with the weather than anything else.

The first half of July doesn’t look promising. Airlines have cut their schedules by 10 percent, cancellations are up 92 percent, and delays have risen by 13 percent. Oh no! I can just see the stories now: “Cancel your vacation now, while you still can!”

Folks, it’s not the end of the world.

I flew up to Washington last week on US Airways, which is not exactly known for its punctuality. And guess what? My plane arrived on time, despite thunderstorms in Orlando and D.C. And I’ve spoken with many other airline passengers who say their flights have been just fine.

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My point is, you just never know. You can’t predict the weather.

But more importantly, you shouldn’t allow a few talking heads to hold your summer vacation hostage. Take sensible precautions — call the airline before you leave for the airport to make sure your flight isn’t canceled, and book nonstop flights wherever possible.

But to borrow a phrase from fellow travel columnist Ed Hewitt, my advice is: Go anyway.