updated 4/5/2011 1:18:13 PM ET 2011-04-05T17:18:13

There were no U.S. planes stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours in February, despite massive winter storms that hit much of the country, the government said Tuesday.

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But cancellations soared, reaching the second highest for any February on record. U.S. airlines had a cancellation rate of 4.87 percent in February, the eighth highest rate for any month. There were 19 flights that were stuck on the tarmac for more than two hours before being scratched.

A year earlier, the cancellation rate reached a peak at 5.4 percent. In January, the cancellation rate was 3.9 percent.

Airlines have shown a willingness to cancel flights to avoid potentially huge fines for long waits on the tarmac. That intensified this winter. Canceling a flight reduces costs for labor and fuel. Many passengers still fly on a later flight, so the airline doesn't necessarily lose the fare.

Overall U.S. airlines were on time less often during February than in both the month and the year before. Hawaiian Airlines once again had the best on-time rate among U.S. carriers at 91.8 percent. AirTran came in second, with 82.6 percent of its flights on time. Regional airlines American Eagle and ExpressJet had the worst on-time rates. A flight is considered late if it arrives more than 15 minutes past its scheduled landing time

The most delayed in February was Continental Flight 387 from Newark to John Wayne Santa Ana Airport in California. It was late every single time it flew, by an average of nearly an hour.

Airlines lost or damaged fewer bags in February than the month or year before. And complaints, which had been steadily rising for about a year, fell 11 percent from a year earlier and 20 percent from January.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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