U.S. airlines' on-time performance, baggage handling and domestic cancellation rates were not as good in November compared to the previous month, but still improved over a year earlier, the Transportation Department said Wednesday.
The agency also said it received fewer complaints about airline service.
As airlines have cut capacity and made other changes, generally they have been able to cut delays and do a better job handling bags. But some have struggled compared to their peers.
Regional carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which had the worst on-time performance in October, again had the worst on-time performance in November, while Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance in November.
The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 83.3 percent in November, an improvement over November 2007's 80 percent rate but below the rate of 86 percent recorded in October 2008.
The agency said the carriers in November canceled 0.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, below the 1 percent cancellation rate of November 2007 but higher than the 0.6 percent rate posted in October 2008.
The airlines overall had a mishandled baggage rate of 3.75 reports per 1,000 passengers in November, an improvement over November 2007's rate of 4.90 reports per 1,000 passengers but up from October 2008's rate of 3.55 reports per 1,000 passengers.
The DOT said that in November it received 532 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 34.3 percent from the 810 complaints filed in November 2007 and 15.2 percent fewer than the total of 627 received in October 2008.
Atlanta-based Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a unit of St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Inc. and a feeder carrier for Delta Air Lines Inc., had the lowest on-time arrival rate in November, at 75.3 percent. The most frequently delayed flight in the month was ExpressJet Airlines flight 2396 from Newark, N.J., to Detroit, which was late 83.3 percent of the time. That flight also was the most frequently delayed flight in October.
Comair Inc., a unit of Delta, had the second-lowest on-time arrival rate in November, at 77.1 percent, while Atlanta-based Delta, the world's biggest carrier, had the third-lowest on-time arrival rate in the month, at 77.4 percent. ASA and Comair handle a good number of connecting flights for Delta in the Northeast, where weather and air traffic delays have hampered carriers.
Hawaiian topped the list with a November on-time arrival rate of 89.6 percent, while discount carrier Southwest Airlines had the second-highest on-time arrival rate in the month, at 87.2 percent, and Northwest Airlines, a unit of Delta, had the third-highest on-time arrival rate, at 86.8 percent.
Among legacy carriers, Northwest's on-time arrival rate in November was the best. Delta completed its $2.8 billion acquisition of Northwest on Oct. 29. For discount carriers, Southwest Airlines had the best on-time arrival rate in November.
Year-to-date from January 2008 through November 2008, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines was at the bottom among the 19 reporting airlines in on-time performance, while Hawaiian was at the top. American's performance improved significantly in the second half of 2008, though its year-to-date numbers were pulled down by its on-time performance in the first few months of the year.
U.S. airlines lost billions of dollars in 2008 despite the rapid decline in fuel prices in the last few months of the year. Weakening demand for seats amid the global financial crisis was a key reason for the losses. Some analysts are predicting airlines will be profitable this year if fuel prices remain low and demand does not weaken too much more.
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