Pack Some Patience

If you've noticed it's taking longer to complete an airplane trip this year, there's good reason for your suspicions.

The Transportation Department has confirmed what many air travelers have suspected — flight delays are on the increase at the airports. Just 72 percent of domestic flights arrived on time between January and April, which is the worst showing for those months since the current method of record-keeping began in 1995.

New Jersey's Newark Airport has the worst record, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, with only 55 percent of flights arriving on time.

"It's just a high level of frustration. There's never an answer as to why," said passenger Therese Daidone.

Weather is the main cause of delays, but it's hardly the only one. What's also contributing to the problem is that the government still uses an antiquated air traffic control system, and a more efficient satellite navigation system is years away from implementation.

Airport capacity must also be expanded, and the FAA said four more major airports will be needed in the years ahead.

"I see nothing in the short term that will alleviate any of these problems whatsoever," said Ohio State University aviation analyst Darryl Jenkins.

Longer Trips for Same Distance

As passengers spend more time waiting to get in the air, they may notice the actual trip just got longer.

A Wall Street Journal analysis found that airlines are padding flight times to account for all the congestion.

For example, the trip from New York to Los Angeles is now listed as 25 minutes longer than it was a decade ago, and 10 minutes have been added to the route from Salt Lake City to Seattle. "These people say they're padding their schedules to avoid delays. No, they're padding their schedules to tell the customer what they really can deliver," said aviation consultant Michael Boyd.

Despite the delays, there is no let up in the demand from travelers. United and Delta said they've carried a record number of passengers in May. And with packed planes, any hiccup can disrupt passengers and flights for days.