The Words “On Time” Do Not Mean What You Think They Mean

The words “on time” apparently do not mean what Alaska Airlines thinks they mean. I’m sitting here in the departure lounge in Portland, and it was just announced that we would leave “on time” at 10:28.

But here is the trouble: The above time is more than an hour after the time printed on my e-ticket. So, how is that “on time”, I asked the gate agent.

It is on time, I was told by Christi, because we are scheduled to leave “right at” the new departure time. I fairly strenuously pointed out that saying that we will leave absolutely, positively at a time more than an hour after when we are scheduled to leave, and then calling that “on time”, is an awfully slippery definition of “on time”. Christi didn’t see it my way.


  1. Mark Mawhinney says:

    I’m so glad someone else sees it my way!
    1999 Air Transat, Cabo San Lucas to YVR, 4 hours late arriving in Vancouver and as we taxi off of the runway our enthusiastic flight attendand bellows over the public announcement system that she, “is pleased to advise that we have arrived ‘on time’….based on our revised flight schedule!”
    2005 Alaska YVR to SFO – leaves 3.25 hours late because they had to drive one replacement flight attendant up to YVR from her home in Seattle. Upon arrival at SFO our enthusiastic flight attendant (don’t know if it’s the same person from our fateful Air Transat flight) cheerfully welcomes us to SFO, gives us the weather and time, asks us to remain in our seats etc. etc. and then closes with this, “and we’d just like to ask you to join us in a special thanks to… Julie/Cristi/Sarah/???…who had to get up so early and drive to Vancouver in order to help us down to SFO today!” Gee, I’d of thought that she would have extended a special thanks to us paying passengers for waiting, mostly very patiently, for the 3.5 hours we had to wait for Julie/Cristi/Sarah/??? to drive, not fly, to YVR!!!

  2. I’ve noticed a couple other term redefinitions as well in the past month.
    1) Flight attendant announces ‘very full flight’ and then flight is half empty!
    2) Reservation agent says “the rest of the seats can only be assigned at the airport” which apparently is a new way of saying there are only middle seats left. Less confrontational I guess.

  3. “He is gaining on us.”
    “You keep using that word — I do not think it means what you think it means.”