updated 3/11/2009 1:02:03 PM ET 2009-03-11T17:02:03

U.S. airlines' on-time performance and baggage handling improved in January, while cancellations declined, compared to the same month a year ago, government data released Wednesday showed.

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Complaints to the Department of Transportation also dropped year-over-year, though there was a sizable increase compared with December.

Regional carrier Comair, a unit of Delta Air Lines Inc., had the worst on-time performance in January, while Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance in the month.

The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 77 percent in January, an improvement over both January 2008's 72.4 percent and December 2008's 65.3 percent.

In January, the carriers canceled 2.3 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a lower rate than both the 2.9 percent cancellation rate of January 2008 and the 3.3 percent rate posted in December 2008.

The airlines overall posted a mishandled baggage rate of 5.2 reports per 1,000 passengers in January, an improvement over both January 2008's rate of 7.39 and December 2008's 6.96 rate.

The DOT said that in January it received 884 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 24.7 percent from the 1,174 complaints filed in January 2008 but 26.3 percent more than the total of 700 received in December 2008.

Comair had the lowest on-time arrival rate in January, at 56.8 percent. The most frequently delayed flight in the month was Comair flight 6808 from Cincinnati to Newark, N.J., which was late 95.7 percent of the time.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a unit of SkyWest Inc., had the second-lowest on-time arrival rate in January, at 68.3 percent, while Alaska Airlines, a unit of Alaska Air Group Inc., had the third-lowest on-time arrival rate in the month, at 71.5 percent.

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Hawaiian topped the list with a January on-time arrival rate of 90.8 percent, while Southwest Airlines had the second-highest on-time arrival rate, at 83.3 percent, and ExpressJet had the third-highest on-time arrival rate, at 79.8 percent.

Among legacy carriers, United Airlines' on-time performance was highest in January, at 79 percent, good for fourth-best overall. For discount carriers, Southwest had the best on-time arrival rate in January.

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