Yes, air travel is getting worse. What can we do?

I just arrived in Basel from Toronto after a 14-hour trip full of delays. First, a freak storm delayed my flight from Toronto to Munich. (“Looks like clear skies and we’re expecting a smooth flight,” the pilot said. A few minutes later, lightning.) So I missed my connection from Munich to Basel. I got rebooked to a later one. It got delayed too.

This comes after a summer of travel delays for me and my colleagues. It seems as if more flights than not get delayed. But is it a string of bad luck? Or is air travel getting worse?

The latter. According to this report, “average arrival delays at European airports have been steadily increasing.” That’s European data. Another survey found that in the US, air travel has become a bigger hassle in the past five years. This includes from delays and cancellations.

Part of the reason is capacity. Air travel is growing in popularity, as shown in this chart. Passenger air traffic grew over 7% in 2018. This puts pressure on airlines and airports. Part of the reason is climate change. More strong storms, for example, mean more delays and cancellations. That was my experience yesterday.

All of this makes me question air travel. I enjoy seeing the world. But I wish there were more environmentally friendly, lower hassle ways to do it. Ideally with fewer delays.

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