Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti! Christos Voskrese!

Hristos a Inviat! Al-Masih-Qam! Kristus aq ungwektaq!

Xris-tusaq Ung-uixtuq! Kriste aghsdga! Harisutosu fukkatsu!

Christus resurrexit! Atgyfododd Crist! Kristus Ar uppstanden!

Travel at Pascha, the end of the semester, and a sudden uptick in my mathematical productivity as ideas from my sabbatical have gelled in my head have kept me away from the blogosphere. Still it isn't too late to cry "Christ is Risen!" without being reproached for not our failure to acquire the Holy Spirit in sufficient measure that emulating St. Seraphim of Sarov would not be presumptuous.


I mentioned traveling at Pascha. I've been traveling a lot this semester, and unedifying though it may be, wanted to share an insight about airlines. Some of them like to boast about 'percentage of on-time departures'. This is one of those statistics which provides support for the denigration of statistics in the popular "lies, damned lies, and statistics".

Does anyone really care if their plane leaves the gate at the appointed time (or within the, I think, 20 minute window considered 'on time')? Not really. All a traveler cares about is whether he or she gets to the destination on time and how much one is delayed if not. Who wouldn't rather stay in the airport lounge an extra hour, rather than sitting on tarmac, strapped into a coach seat for an hour?

And speaking of sitting in an airport lounge. 'Percentage of on time departures' actually encourages a practice which should
be banned by statute: stranding a flight while other, later flights on exactly the same route with the same size planes are permitted to depart on time. I spent 8.5 hours in the Philadelphia International Airport thanks to this corrupt practice, but hey, USAirway kept their on-time departure percentage up.

One might hope that a forward-looking airline executive would realize the detriment to traveling public posed by the perverse incentives created by using on-time departure as the measure of efficiency, rather than on-time arrival or minimizing delay from scheduled arrival time, but corporate management being what it is these days, that's about as likely as being on a flight whose oxygen masks deploy.

However, someone in the travel journalism business could do the flying public a great service by compiling average on-time arrival statistics, and average delay from scheduled arrival statistics for major carriers, both system-wide and on popular routes.


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