The airline industry's on-time performance through the first 11 months of this year was the second worst on record, but delays in November fell compared with a year ago and from the previous month.
The nation's 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 80 percent in November, up from 76.5 percent in the same month a year ago and from 78.2 percent in October, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Thursday.
In November, 37.8 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down from 40.7 percent in the same month last year and from 39.8 percent in October.
Despite the improved results in November, the first 11 months of the year left plenty of room for improvement with 24 percent of flights arriving late and another 2 percent were canceled. The industry's on-time performance of just over 74 percent so far this year was the second worst since comparable data began being collected in 1995, trailing only the 73.5 percent arrival rate in 2000.
UAL Corp.'s United Airlines was the least punctual of the pack, with about 24 percent of its flights delayed by at least 15 minutes in November.
The airline data come on the heels of winter storms, mostly in the Midwest, that caused hundreds of flights to be canceled or delayed during the busy holiday travel season.
Customer complaints rose to 808 in November compared with 589 in the same month last year, according to the government data. But the rates of mishandled baggage fell to about 4.9 reports per 1,000 passengers from 6.3 reports a year ago.
Not all airlines performed poorly in November. Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s Hawaiian Airlines had the highest on-time arrival rate at 92.4 percent, followed by Aloha Airlines at 91.6 percent and Delta Air Lines at 85.6 percent, according to government data.
To avoid another summer of record delays, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters last month said flight caps will begin in March at New York City area's three major airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia and New Jersey's Newark Liberty.
Under the rules, JFK will be allowed 82 or 83 flights per hour at the peak times, down from about 100 that had been scheduled this past summer. Similar caps, which already exist at LaGuardia, also will go into effect at Newark, but the exact number has yet to be determined.
Through the first 11 months of the year, those three airports had the lowest on-time arrival rates, and aviation officials say delays there cascade throughout the system and cause three-quarters of all flight delays in the nation.
Still, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airports, immediately criticized the flight caps and said they may lead to higher ticket prices or force some people to travel at inconvenient times.
The Federal Aviation Administration also plans to create a "czar" for air travel in the region.
Meanwhile, the airlines and the FAA are pressing for a new, $15 billion satellite-based air traffic control system that will take nearly 20 years to complete to improve operations. In late August, the FAA awarded ITT Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion to build the first portion the system.