The Surprising Reason Why Flights Are Now LONGER Than They Were in the 1970s

The Surprising Reason Why Flights Are Now LONGER Than They Were in the 1970s

In some cases, way longer.

By Alesandra Dubin

A lot has changed since the 1970s: Consider, for instance, that the pocket calculator was only invented in that decade, and your iPhone was not even the faintest glimmer of sci-fi fantasies. Plus, this was the kind of vehicle people were using to get to their destinations in style and quickness:

Clearly, there have been many changes and improvements made in the intervening four decades to technology, transportation, and everyday conveniences. So why does the average commercial airplane flight now take longer than it did back then?!

Consider a flight between New York and Houston, Texas. That flight today takes about three hours and 50 minutes to complete, but according to Business Insider, the same flight back in 1973 would have taken a fraction of the time — just two hours and 37 minutes. So what’s the deal?

Well, according to Business Insider, the issue is the increased cost of fuel. Airlines are directing commercial flight pilots to slow their speed as a cost-saving measure. (Yes, dollars and cents explain just about every mystery of commercial air travel these days.)

Fuel costs are also why airlines make every effort to make planes lighter — including nickel and diming passengers for heavy luggage.

Business Insider notes that in the decade between 2002 and 2012 alone, the price of fuel rose from $0.70 per gallon to more than $3. That’s a huge margin — and it matters.

Back in 2008, Northwest Airlines said it was able to trim 162 gallons of fuel off a flight between Paris to Minneapolis when the pilot cut his average speed by a mere two miles per hour. Naturally, that reduction in speed added eight minutes to the total flight time, but it saved the airline about $365, according to Daily Mail.

In a year, Northwest said it saved about $365,000 on a route between Los Angeles and Hawaii. And Southwest Airlines said it was able to save nearly $26 million in a year adding between one and three minutes to each of its flights.

The increased total flight time may not be noticeable to passengers — especially on short-distance flights — but it does explain a trend that would otherwise seem to buck all rules of technological advancement and progress.

By the way? Another reason your flight might seem longer is because of the practice of so-called "block padding," in which airlines pad scheduled in order to increase their on-time ratings.

Takeaway message: Get comfortable, folks. This could take a while.

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