Government report: More flights on time in April

AP News
Posted: Jun 14, 2012 12:41 PM
Government report: More flights on time in April

More flights are getting to their destinations on time and with fewer mishandled bags.

The U.S. Transportation Department said Thursday that 86.3 percent of flights on the nation's biggest airlines arrived on time in April, up several points from both the previous month and April 2011.

Perennial winner Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time record, followed closely by AirTran Airways.

American Airlines, which has been operating under bankruptcy protection since November, had the worst record, and United was only slightly better.

The government said the rate of mishandled bags fell to fewer than three for every 1,000 passengers, the lowest rate since the airlines started reporting the statistic in 1987.

Consumer complaints declined slightly from March but jumped 21.4 percent compared with April 2011. However, so few consumers bother to file formal complaints with the federal government _ just 1,068 out of the millions of passengers who traveled in April _ that it's hard to be certain of trends from those figures alone.

Airlines have been reducing flights by eliminating unprofitable ones as jet fuel became more costly. That helped them save money and drive up airfares by limiting the supply of seats. A side benefit has been that with airport terminals and tarmacs now less crowded, more flights are taking off and arriving on time.

April's on-time arrival rating was better than March, which was 82.2 percent, and April 2011, 75.5 percent.

There were no reported tarmac delays of more than three hours for domestic flights or four hours on international ones. Those are the time limits before airlines can face big fines unless there's a safety or security reason for the delay.

With fewer flights and fewer passengers checking baggage to avoid fees, the airlines also boosted their record for handling bags without losing or damaging them.

Favorable weather also helped as airlines canceled 1 percent of their U.S. flights, the same as in March and down from 2 percent in April 2011.

American had the worst record, canceling 3.7 percent of its flights, and its American Eagle affiliate was second-worst at 2.4 percent. American has cut back scheduled flights in June and July partly, it says, because pilots have been calling in sick at an unusually high rate.

The pilots' union, which is backing a potential takeover of American by US Airways, has said that if American has a shortage it should hire back some of the pilots that it furloughed in recent years.