Q. If I check the status of my flight before leaving home, and see that it's been delayed by two hours, is there any real reason I should stick to the original check-in time? According to the airline, yes, but if they themselves are late, then I just don't see the point. What do you think?
A. As tempting as it is, we think you're better off playing it safe. Whatever the cause of the delay (mechanical? late incoming flight?), there's always the slim change it could suddenly and miraculously be corrected. Your airline could switch things up and use an alternate plane, or that incoming flight could very well make it on time. In the end, status is just an estimate, and you'll probably have a much smoother trip if you show up on time or even earlier than suggested, rather than risk missing the flight and scrambling to get on the next. Also, if you ever find yourself at the gate waiting for a severely delayed flight, you risk wandering off at your own peril. You just never know when a mechanical problem that was going to take two hours to fix is magically solved, and the plane could leave without you. So stay close to the gate.
Q: I booked a flight to Honolulu with a tight connection in Houston. Is there any way to predict if my inbound flight to Houston and my outbound to Honolulu will be on time?
A: Yes. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics maintains on time data for most domestic flights. For example, were you to search Continental's Flight 001 from Houston to Honolulu, you'd see that from Jan. 1, 2009, to Jan. 1, 2010, the average departure delay for this flight was 16.73 minutes with an average arrival delay of just 12.63 minutes. No flights were canceled on this route during this time period. To search any flight, visit http://www.bts.gov/xml/ontimesummarystatistics/src/index.xml and then click on "flight number" and follow the instructions. If you're still concerned about making your connection in such circumstances, next time you fly try to build in a longer layover, which you can sometimes do on line when booking, or with the help of an airline reservationist or travel agent.