updated 6/9/2009 3:53:39 PM ET 2009-06-09T19:53:39

Flights on U.S. airlines were on time more frequently in April than the month before and improved from a year earlier, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance, while Comair — a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. — had the worst. Among legacy carriers, Northwest Airlines — operated by Atlanta-based Delta — was on-time the most, and Continental Airlines Inc. posted the worst on-time performance.

Legacy carriers are those airlines that had a large presence in a number of regions before the industry was deregulated in 1978.

The airlines reporting had a combined average on-time rate of 79.1 percent, compared with 78.4 percent in March. Last April the on-time arrival rate was 77.7 percent.

Weather problems were involved in a little less than half of the delays in April — a slight decline from March. Other delays came from congestion, airport operations, maintenance and crew issues.

There are fewer planes in the sky this year, as many carriers have scaled back their flights to meet lower passenger demand.

Reports of mishandled baggage declined in April from March, and were lower than in April 2008 as well.

DOT said there were about one-third fewer complaints overall from consumers in April than a year earlier, but more than in March. Most were about flight cancellations and delays. DOT received 647 complaints about U.S. carriers during the month, compared with 974 in April 2008. There were 586 complaints in March.

Nineteen U.S. airlines report monthly on-time data and the causes of delays and cancellations for nonstop flights to the Department of Transportation. The airlines report the causes of delays in broad categories — such as "Extreme Weather" and "National Aviation System Delay" — that were created by the airlines, industry groups, travel agents and government officials.

A flight is considered on-time if it arrives within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time shown in the carriers' computerized reservations systems. Canceled and diverted flights are counted as late.

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