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Right On Time

Well, now you know United is rewriting the rules on when a plane actually departs. It's really going to be five minutes before schedule when United closes the doors. So even if your ticket reads 8 a.m., you better not show up at 7:55 expecting to board your flight. You'll be that guy with his nose pressed against the window at the departure gate. Now I'm all for anything that helps planes leave on time, but what's the definition of "on time?" I think it should be when the aircraft's doors are closed, which ought to be the time that's on your ticket.

Look, it's all smoke and mirrors. It only takes 29 minutes to fly from D.C. to New York, yet all airline schedules allow for an hour in case of heavy air traffic. So why not allow an extra few minutes to push away from the gate?

Departure times are sort of phony anyway. There are four flights from Chicago O'Hare that claim to depart at 6 a.m. for New York's LaGuardia airport. Two to Baltimore. Plus one flight to Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. Now, do those ten flights take off at 6 a.m., really? Of course not; O'Hare doesn't have ten parallel runways.

But United wants us to cut it some slack by showing up earlier. OK, but only if it'll still give ME a deal if I call an hour or so late to buy an advance-purchase ticket. Right.



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