On-time easyJet

In the Summer of 2010 easyJet punctuality was a disaster. Now it is one of the best that there is. How did this happen?

In this paper today, 5 January, Chloé Dethurens writes about how the company easyJet Switzerland is now one of the airlines with the best records of punctuality. Although the article does include some facts which are no longer completely true, the explanation for the improvement is perfectly correct. This improved punctuality is a source of satisfaction for people living around the airport (though there remain various sources of dissatisfaction!).

During that horrible Summer of 2010 easyJet Switzerland had only just enough aircraft (15 , of which Geneva needed 10 and Basel 5) for schedules that had become far too demanding. The inevitable result was that as soon as a single aircraft had a problem, the accumulated delays then rippled through all the rest of the day's (and night's) flights. The result was a punctuality record worse than Air Zimbabwe. The parent company, easyJet UK, was also very bad, though not as bad as easyJet Switzerland.

After analysing the reasons, and noting that easyJet had just appointed a new chief executive, Caroline McCall, I took the liberty of writing a letter to her and including a report analysing why I thought that this disaster had happened and what her company should do about it if she wished to avoid future similar disasters. A vital part of my analysis, included in the report, was the following :-

Despite what has been said by spokespersons of easyJet, and even of the airport, that easyJet does have a spare aircraft available, there has been very little sign of this mysterious spare aircraft.

The summer schedules of easyJet Switzerland, which (according to the Director of Geneva airport) are created by the parent company in the UK, have clearly gone beyond what is practical. The occasional agitation of air traffic controllers, in particular in France, is not enough to explain the repeated problems, which tend to occur mostly on Fridays or weekends and to involve popular tourist destinations, in particular those on the Iberian peninsula.

The first line there follows from the fact that whereas the airport management had for years (falsely) assured everyone (including the Swiss Federal Aviation authorities) that a spare aircraft existed, there was in fact no Swiss spare aircraft.

My recommendation was as follows :-

ARAG requests that easyJet Switzerland be obliged to work with more reasonable schedules, to have a proper plan to deal with any shortage of aircraft and to be prepared to explain in details any cancellations, deviations or extremely delayed flights and all flights which actually operate in the airport closure grace period (currently from midnight until 00h30).

With the exception of the latter request, which is in any case no longer so necessary, easyJet has followed  my recommendations. According to some causality theories, I could therefore claim that it is because of ARAG that things have improved. However, I have no doubt that Ms McCall made her own decisions, which matched mine because they were the correct ones.

The current state of the reserve aircraft of easyJet Switzerland has even improved in the last couple of days. Last Wednesday afternoon an Airbus A320 with the UK registration G-EZTN flew into Geneva. By yesterday (Friday) it had been re-registered as the Swiss HB-JYE. According to my checks, that makes 23 active Swiss-registered aircraft, as against 15 in the Summer of 2010. As of today, the minimum requirement is for 13 aircraft in Geneva and 7 in Basel, meaning that there might actually be three spare aircraft. Of course, that could change if, as has previously happened, an old aircraft is retired or new routes imply the need for more aircraft each day.

I actually hope that there will be two spare aircraft, given the constantly increasing number of flights. It might also help if one of these could be positioned in Basel, because this year there have been already 8 empty flights as easyJet Switzerland shuffles aircraft around, with most of these flights being between Geneva and Basel.

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