Airlines' July on-time performance improves

/ Source: The Associated Press

Delta Air Lines' regional subsidiary Comair had the worst on-time performance in July among airlines surveyed by the Transportation Department, according to government data released Wednesday.

But overall, the nation's airlines were on time more often in July compared to a year ago, and customers filed fewer complaints about their baggage, the agency said.

The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 75.7 percent in July, higher than both July 2007's 69.8 percent and June 2008's 70.8 percent.

The agency also said that the nation's carriers canceled 1.7 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in July, lower than both the 2.1 percent cancellation rate of July 2007 and the 1.8 percent rate posted in June of this year.

Erlanger, Ky.-based Comair had the worst on-time arrival rate, at 63.31 percent. JetBlue Airways was next at 64.6 percent. UAL Corp.'s United Airlines was third worst at 68.25 percent and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, which had the worst on-time performance in June, was fourth from the bottom in July, at 69.51 percent.

Regional carrier Pinnacle Airlines had the best on-time rate in July compared to a year ago, at 85.6 percent, according to the government's data.

Comair spokesman Jeff Pugh said in a statement that the airline has been steadily improving its performance over the years, though it continues to struggle with regional operational issues in the Northeast.

"Our focus continues to be on improving and controlling what we can," he said.

Among legacy carriers, Northwest Airlines Corp. had the best on-time performance in July compared to a year ago, at 79.51 percent, good for seventh best overall. Among discount carriers, Southwest Airlines was best, at 83.05 percent, good for third best overall.

The airlines got better in handling baggage.

Overall, the airlines posted a mishandled baggage rate of 4.86 reports per 1,000 passengers in July, an improvement over both July 2007's rate of 7.96 and June 2008's 5.15 rate.

Comair had the worst mishandled baggage rate in July with 9.02 reports per 1,000 passengers. Northwest had the best rate at 3.09.

In July, the airlines filing on-time performance data reported that 7.78 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, 7.17 percent by late-arriving aircraft, 6.3 percent by factors within the airline's control such as maintenance or crew problems and 1.01 percent by extreme weather, the government said.

Weather is a factor in both the extreme-weather category and the aviation-system category. This includes delays due to the rerouting of flights by the Federal Aviation Administration in consultation with the carriers involved. Weather is also a factor in delays attributed to late-arriving aircraft, although airlines do not report specific causes in that category, DOT said.

In July, 44.37 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up 2.83 percent from July 2007, when 43.15 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and down 6.02 percent from June of this year when 47.21 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.

Airlines struggling with high fuel costs have been raising fees for handling luggage and in some cases adding new fees for a first bag. Many airlines have been raising fares, as well.