Why Spirit doesn't want to be the nation's top on-time airline

Did you know Spirit Airlines wants to improve its on-time rate? Yes, one of the nation's most unreliable airlines wants to improve its operation. But not by too much.  

On the airline's first quarter earnings conference call, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza bragged that the carrier improved its on-time rate by five percentage points compared to the same period last year. With the improvement, Spirit is now "approaching the middle-of-the-pack" in on-time performance, Baldanza said.

But don't get too excited. Spirit has no plans to rise much higher. Airlines have a lot of control over on-time performance since they set departure and arrival times. To improve performance, all they have to do is lengthen the flight time. That's not something Baldanza wants to do. 

"What we don't do is we don't pad our block time, like every other airline, just to look good on on-time," Baldanza told investment analysts. "If you fly any other airline, if you take off on time, you always land early. That's just making everybody's ticket prices higher." (Airlines often say planes can't make money when they're not flying.)

As a passenger, I don't mind if an airline pads its on-time performance. I like landing early, even if it is just an illusion. What do you think?