Do Airlines Pad Their Schedules?

30 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2017

See all articles by Silke Forbes

Silke Forbes

Tufts University

Mara Lederman

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Zhe Yuan

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

Date Written: November 6, 2017


Since 1987, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has required all large domestic airlines to report on the on-time performance of their flights. Using the data collected by the DOT, we analyze how schedule times, actual flight times and on-time performance have changed in the industry between 1990 and 2016. We find that schedule times have increased in most years, with the largest increases occurring after 2008. In 2016, schedules were about 8 minutes longer than they were in 1990, for flights by the same airline on the same route in the same month of the year. We find that actual flight times and total travel times have also increased over this period but by less than the increase in schedule times and with the gap growing over time. This has resulted in reduced arrival delays despite the fact that flights are taking longer to complete. We discuss the implications of these findings for quality provision and information disclosure within the airline industry.

Keywords: airlines, on-time performance, information disclosure

JEL Classification: L15, L93

Suggested Citation

Forbes, Silke and Lederman, Mara and Yuan, Zhe, Do Airlines Pad Their Schedules? (November 6, 2017). Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 3065986, Available at SSRN: or

Silke Forbes

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Mara Lederman (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4

Zhe Yuan

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics ( email )

777 Guo-ding Road
Shanghai, 200433

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics