updated 9/8/2009 3:26:31 PM ET 2009-09-08T19:26:31

Airline passengers got to their destination on time a little more often in July.

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The Transportation Department said on Tuesday that 77.6 percent of airline flights arrived on time, up from 75.7 percent during the same month last year. July's showing was also an improvement over the 76.1 percent on-time rate in June.

Airlines have generally been flying less because of the recession, and that seems to be helping them get their remaining flights to their destinations on time.

Among the largest carriers, Southwest Airlines flights were on-schedule 80.7 percent of the time, followed by US Airways at 80.6 percent and United Airlines at 79.6 percent. United's ranking was a big jump from June's on-time performance of 72.6 percent, among the worst of the big carriers.

American Airlines was last-place among major carriers, with 72.2 percent of its flights arriving on time. Delta Air Lines was a little better at 75.5 percent, and its subsidiary Northwest Airlines came in at 76.4 percent.

Airlines said the biggest cause of delays was the late arrival of the airplane to be used on the delayed flight. Other big causes included delays from airport operations and heavy traffic, as well as delays the airline could control, such as maintenance or crew. Weather was cited as a factor in less than 1 percent of all flights.

Nineteen Airlines report monthly on-time data and causes of delays to the Department of Transportation. The delays are labeled under 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 schedule shown in the carriers' reservation systems. Canceled and diverted flights are counted as late.

Among all 19 carriers, Hawaiian Airlines topped the list, with 93.6 percent of its flights arriving on-time. Comair, a regional subsidiary of Delta, was last at 63.6 percent.

Slideshow: Awful airlines The airlines lost less luggage in July, too. The rate of lost bags dropped to 3.98 per 1,000 passengers in July, down from 4.87 in July 2008. Baggage fees became more widespread during that year, causing many travelers to cut back on the amount of luggage they haul to the airport. That has helped airlines do a better job with the remaining bags. The total number of baggage reports fell 21.4 percent to 215,276, even though the number of passengers fell only 3.8 percent.

AirTran Airways had the best performance, with 1.78 mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers. American Eagle, the regional carrier owned by American Airlines parent AMR Corp., was in last place with 7.9 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.

Among the biggest carriers, US Airways had the best performance with 2.75 lost bags per 1,000 passengers, while American was at the bottom with 4.73.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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