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Airlines improved on-time performance in June

Image: Airport passengers
Southwest Airlines, which doesn't charge its customers first-bag or second-bag fees, has mocked the rest of the industry in recent advertisements.Jeff Haynes / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Transportation Department said Tuesday that the nation's airlines were on time more often in June compared to a year ago, and customers filed fewer complaints about their baggage.

The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said that 1.8 percent of domestic commercial flights were canceled in June, down from 2.7 percent in June 2007 but higher than the 1 percent cancellation rate posted in May 2008.

The 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 70.8 percent in June, higher than June 2007s 68.1 percent but down from May 2008s 79 percent.

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, the nation's biggest carrier, had the worst on-time rate, at 58.8 percent. United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp., was next at 59.3.

Hawaiian Airlines, a unit of Hawaiian Holdings Inc., had the best on-time arrival rate by a wide margin, at 92.2 percent. Among the major hub carriers, US Airways Group Inc. was best and sixth overall, at 76.3 percent, in a virtual tie with Southwest Airlines Co.

Weather was a big culprit, with big hub airports such as Dallas-Fort Worth International prone to thunderstorms.

The Transportation Department said 47.2 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from both the 44.1 percent rate in May and 45 percent in June 2007.

The airlines got better at handling baggage. There were 5.15 reports of mishandled luggage for every 1,000 passengers in June, which was an improvement over the year-earlier figure of 7.94 complaints per 1,000 customers.

AirTran Airways, a unit of AirTran Holdings Inc., and JetBlue Airways Corp. were best, averaging around three complaints per 1,000 passengers. AMR's American Eagle was last, at 10.2 complaints per 1,000.

Airlines struggling with high fuel costs have been raising fees for handling luggage and in many cases, adding new fees for a first bag. But not all carriers are going along.

Southwest, which doesn't charge for luggage, has mocked the fees charged by rivals in its advertisements. Continental Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. have resisted putting a fee on the first checked bag — although Delta doubled its second-bag charge.