DALLAS -- Dragged down by problems at American Airlines, U.S. carriers operated fewer flights on time in September than a year ago.
The Transportation Department said Thursday that 83.3 percent of all flights were on time, down from 83.9 percent in September 2011 but an improvement from 79.1 percent in August of this year.
The best on-time performance was turned in by Hawaiian Airlines, at 96 percent. The airline benefits from operating many short flights in generally good weather.
AirTran Airways was second, at 91 percent, followed by Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines at nearly 90 percent.
American Airlines was by far the worst, with just 58 percent of flights arriving no more than 14 minutes behind schedule. American has blamed its poor performance on what it called an illegal work slowdown by pilots unhappy that the airline used the bankruptcy process to cut their pay and benefits in early September.
According to the airlines, there were no domestic flights stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours nor any international flights delayed by at least four hours. Those kinds of long delays have dropped since the government threatened to impose large fines last year. Airlines usually choose instead to cancel flights that are likely to be several hours late.
Passengers reported a slightly lower rate of lost or mishandled baggage — wayward bags were a bigger problem on regional airlines that connect passengers to bigger airlines at large, hub airports.
Your chances of getting bumped from a flight grew this summer — up 38 percent from July through September compared with the same period last year. But forced bumpings were still rare; one in 10,000 passengers, according to the government. Among the largest airlines, United Airlines was most likely to bump someone.
Consumer complaints ticked up slightly, although few travelers bother to file formal protests with the Transportation Department. Complaints were most likely against United and American, least likely against Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.