Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

It's the euphemisms that kill you.

You get to the airport early. You check in. You get to the gate.

And then you get slapped in the face by "operational difficulties."

At least that's the phrase I seem to have heard once too often when I'm desperate to just get home.

You might imagine, though, that especially in the summertime of storms, that the weather is actually the biggest cause of flight delays.

Not any more, it isn't.

Neither is someone in air-traffic control pushing the wrong button.

The Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that one thing has overtaken all the elements that airlines say are out of their hands.

Instead, the main cause of flight delays is -- are you clear for irate takeoff? -- the airlines themselves.

Mechanical breakdowns, mysterious non-availability of flight crews, computer glitches and other non-specific airline-specific factors meant that 2015 was only the second year in which the airlines themselves were the No. 1 cause of delays.

6 out of every 100 flights were delayed due to these airline-specific factors.

Given the lack of competition among airlines and the massive, unseemly, insulting nickel-and-diming that constantly plagues customers' emotional tolerance, the following quote is going to upset you.

Please, therefore, sit back and relax as I offer you words given to Bloomberg by Charlie Leocha, president of passenger advocate group Travelers United.

"They don't have any give in the system anymore. I think a lot of it has to do with this drive to profitability," he said.

Could it be that the drive for more and more profit -- exemplified in just a small way by British Airways removing a long-haul meal and replacing it with a short little chocolate bar -- is making the airlines a touch stretched when it comes to contingency plans?

Could it be, in fact, that the airlines have factored in this flight-delay problem as just another expense -- or, rather, just another inconvenience to passengers because they have no choice?

Airlines will, naturally, tell you that their on-time averages increased in 2015.

This is true. I wonder how much of this involves them padding the scheduled time-frame of the flight, so that it takes longer but is simply more likely to arrive on "time"?

At heart, we have airlines desperate to pile on the profits and passengers who are sitting ducks.

Actually, ducks often have more comfortable seating than airline passengers.

Last year, airlines made $26 billion profit. This is, of course, after taxes. It compares rather favorably with pesky $2.3 billion they made in 2010.

And here's the good news.

In June, the International Air Transport Association boosted its profit forecast for 2016 by another 8.5 percent.

So what are the airlines projected to make this year? $39.4 billion.

They clearly have no operational difficulties at all.

Published on: Aug 24, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.