U.S. airlines have cut many flights and they are getting better at staying on schedule with their remaining flights, as more trips arrived on time in May than a year earlier.
The Transportation Department also said Thursday that fewer flights were canceled and passengers reported fewer cases of mishandled baggage.
Airlines have been cutting flights since last year, first in response to rising fuel prices, then to cope with a slump in travel due to the recession. In June, capacity — mostly measured in the number of flights — was down about 6 percent from last June at the largest U.S. airlines.
That's made it easier for airlines to stay on schedule, which the Transportation Department defines as arriving within 15 minutes of the ending time listed in the airline's own computerized reservations system.
Overall, 80.5 percent of May flights arrived on time, compared with 79 percent in May 2008 and 79.1 percent in April of this year, according to the Transportation Department.
Hawaiian Airlines topped the list of 19 airlines, with 90.3 percent of its May flights arriving on time.
At the bottom of the rankings: Delta Air Lines Inc. regional subsidiary Comair, at 65.7; and Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which is owned by SkyWest Inc. and provides feeder service for Delta, at 70.8 percent.
Comair owned the two most frequently delayed flights in May. Comair Flight 6313 from New York's Kennedy Airport to Minneapolis was late 96.8 percent of the time, and Flight 6652 from Kansas City to New York's LaGuardia Airport was tardy 92 percent of the time.
Among the largest carriers, the best on-time rankings were turned in by Southwest Airlines Co. and Continental Airlines Inc., while the worst was Delta.
The longest delay on the tarmac was a May 29 Mesa Airlines flight that was stuck at Washington's Dulles Airport for five hours and 11 minutes. A Delta flight on May 16 stayed on the ground at Kennedy Airport nearly five hours.
Cancellations declined to 0.9 percent of flights in May, compared with 1 percent a year earlier and 1.5 percent in April. American Eagle, Comair and American had the highest cancellation rates. Eagle is American's regional affiliate.
Airlines reported 3.56 incidents of mishandled baggage for every 1,000 passengers in May. That marked an improvement over the May 2008 rate of 4.60 and this April's mark of 3.79 cases per 1,000 passengers.
The Transportation Department said it got 656 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 25.9 percent from a year earlier and down 16 percent from April.