Image: Waiting at the airport
Richard Drew  /  AP file
The nation's 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 81.7 percent in September, up from 76.2 percent in the same month a year ago and up from 71.7 percent in August.
updated 11/5/2007 1:12:14 PM ET 2007-11-05T18:12:14

Travelers were less likely to be stuck on a delayed flight in September, but the airline industry's on-time performance so far in 2007 remained the worst in 13 years, according to government data released Monday.

The nation's 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 81.7 percent in September, up from 76.2 percent in the same month a year ago and up from 71.7 percent in August, the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said.

Better weather was partly to credit for the improved results. More than 34 percent of late flights in September were delayed by weather, an improvement from a year ago when more than 40 percent of those flights experienced weather-related delays.

Despite the improved September results more than 24 percent of flights arrived late in the first nine months of the year. The industry's on-time performance this year remained the worst since comparable data began being collected in 1995.

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The statistics come amid increased concern about flight delays. Last month, federal aviation regulators held a two-day summit aimed at fixing "epidemic" delays at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport , which had the second-worst on-time arrival record of any major U.S. airport through September, followed by Newark's Liberty International Airport.

The latest government proposal to alleviate delays is to reduce JFK's hourly flight limit by 20 percent.

But the airline industry's trade group, the Air Transport Association, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs JFK, both prefer flight-path changes and improvements aimed at increasing the airport's capacity.

Not all airlines suffered through poor performance in September. Aloha Airlines had the highest on-time arrival rate at 95.4 percent, followed by Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s Hawaiian Airlines at 93.7 percent and Frontier Airlines at 88.5 percent, according to government data.

But more than 63 percent of flights on Atlantic Southeast Airlines were delayed, and one of its flights, from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach, S.C. was late 90 percent of the time. The Delta Connection carrier, which is owned by SkyWest Inc., had the lowest on-time arrival rate, followed by Alaska Airlines at 73.3 percent and Northwest Airlines at 77.8 percent.

Customer complaints rose in September to 895 compared with 627 in the same month last year, according to the government data. But the rates of mishandled baggage fell to about 5.5 reports per 1,000 passengers from 8.3 reports a year ago.

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Video: Flight delays improve in September


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