More than a dozen planes sat on the tarmac for more than three hours in June, the government said Tuesday. It's the second month in a row that the number of three-hour delays reached double digits since a government rule went into effect over a year ago aimed at limiting them.
The Department of Transportation said 14 planes were stuck on the tarmac for over three hours in June. There were 16 such delays in May. There were only 20 in the full year before that. The rule threatening millions of dollars in fines for delays of three hours or more was implemented on April 29 of last year.
DOT hasn't fined an airline for violating the rule, because it says that none of the delays was serious enough to justify the big penalties. Nearly all of them were caused by bad weather.
The recent uptick in delays could draw fire from passenger rights advocates who first pushed for financial penalties. In June of 2009, there were 268 delays of more than three hours. By June of 2010 there were only three.
June is one of the busiest travel months of the year and it's also peak thunderstorm season.
Most of the delays this June were at Chicago O'Hare and Washington Dulles. The longest was an American Eagle flight from New York that was stuck on the tarmac in its destination city _ St. Louis _ for four hours. Most flights were stranded at their origin airport. Delayed Delta and AirTran flights were held up at airports that the planes were diverted to.
Six of the flights were cancelled after their long delays. Another five came back to terminal gates.
The nation's 16 largest airlines operated more than a half-million flights in June. Flights overall during the month were on-time more often than a year ago, and there were fewer delays in June than in May. A flight is considered late if it pulls up to the gate more than 15 minutes behind schedule.
Airlines with the highest on-time rates were Hawaiian, Alaska and Southwest. Regional carriers Atlantic Southeast and ExpressJet and US Airways were the worst.
Cancellations rose from a year ago but fell from May. The rate of lost or damaged baggage was down slightly from a year ago. Complaints were down 20 percent from June 2010, but up 6 percent from May.
Samantha Bomkamp can be reached at www.twitter.com/SamWillTravel