Continental connections for North America are such an inconvenience for the traveler that they’re frustration extends beyond complaints to a love to hate relationship with flying. The airlines force its clients to make connections on continental flights just because the airline’s best interest is in protecting their bottom-line, instead of offering convenience to the average business flyer.
The airline industry is operating on a dinosaur business model that hasn’t adapted since the 80’s. The airlines pack passengers into some of the largest planes on the market and fly to the airline’s hub forcing the passenger to make a continental connection. A hub is an airport where a specific airline sends all of its flights and passengers must change planes to get to their destination. The airline then offers few direct flights unless you happen to be traveling to that hub’s city.
The arrival of timeshares or timesharing in flight plans came with the introduction of continental connections. Timeshares when referring to airports and flight times has to do with finding a time for a once-delayed flight to take off. Having already missed its narrow window of opportunity to depart for whatever reason, the airline must find a new time for the plane to depart. Often an airline is affiliated with an alliance of airlines, and the alliance will find an upcoming departure of one of its flights and arrange with the airport tower to timeshare the departure time with the two flights. The tower doesn’t complain about the timeshare agreement because it earns the airport a commission from the transfer of the missed departure time to the timeshared departure time.
The timesharing agreement is done to avoid having to pay the airport to assign a new departure time for the flight, a costly expense with time at a premium at continental airports. While there have been no reported aviation accidents due to timeshare flight plans, the danger of something happening exists because the two timeshared flights take off so closely together. The passengers rarely, if ever know about the timeshare agreement for the flight plans. At the risk of sounding ominous, a crash is almost inevitable if the airlines maintain the practice of timeshare departure times from delayed continental connections. Without continental connections on flights within North America, the instances for delayed flights will decrease and the timeshare agreements for flight times would in follow the same pattern. My complaints to the airlines would also stop if continental connections ceased to exist.
Larger planes have a lower cost-per-passenger for the airline when the flight is fully booked, and the airline must sell each seat for the flight to be profitable. The margin is for profit is extremely tight when the airline uses the massive Airbus and Boeing super jets that sending a flight with less than 80% occupancy is a loss for the airline.
It was the 1980s when the airlines began to streamline operations and adopted the practice of continental connections through hub airports. The death of direct flights in continental North America and the appearance of connections gave birth to my complaints, like a phoenix rising rising up from the flames.
Continental connections in North America shouldn’t have to be the norm. One only has to look to Europe and see how the continent’s many airlines operate. Few airlines in Europe operate on the hub system and continental connections, giving passengers more direct flight options and fewer continental connections. Probably no complaints from Europe’s frequent flyers, especially the business traveler with multiple flights weekly and few if any continental connections.