Airlines Increase On-Time Performance to 80% in March

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There is good news for travelers frustrated by flight delays. On-time performance for the nation's largest airlines was better in March of this year than the same month last year and February this year, according to a report released earlier this week.

The 18 U.S. carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time flight arrival rate of 80 percent in March, an improvement compared to the 78.4 percent on-time rate of March 2009 and February 2010's 74.6 percent, based on data in the Air Travel Consumer Report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings.

Not surprisingly, weather-related factors were the cause of slightly more than 40 percent of the delays in March of this year.

Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Pinnacle Airlines were cited as the carriers with the highest on-time arrival rates, with Hawaiian placing first thanks to a 90.2 percent ranking. JetBlue Airways fared the worst, pulling in a 72.1 percent on-time arrival rate, with ExpressJet Airlines and American Airlines filling in the other bottom two slots, according to the report.

The domestic flight cancellation rate also improved. In March of this year, carriers canceled 1.5 percent of scheduled flights compared to the 5.5 percent rate posted in February of this year and the 2.1 percent cancellation rate of March 2009.

Comair, Atlantic Southeast Airlines and JetBlue Airways had the highest rate of canceled flights, according to the report. Hawaiian Airlines, Continental Airlines and Alaska Airlines had the lowest rate of canceled flights.

Tarmac delays of three hours or more were also down this past March compared to the month before.

The monthly report, which in usually released by the end of the first week of each month of the year, is divided into six sections. In addition to data on flight and tarmac delays, and flight cancellations, the report includes information on bumping of passengers, mishandled baggage, and consumer service, disability and discrimination complaints received by the Department of Transpiration's Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

Consumer complaints about airline service for the first quarter of this year was almost 23 percent higher than the same time period last year.

Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said the complaints had not yet been analyzed to determine the specific cause or causes.

The aviation consumer protection Web site, airconsumer.dot.gov, was redesigned earlier this year to be "more user friendly," Mr. Mosley said, allowing passengers to file complaints more easily as well as to find the information they need.

For pet lovers, the report also includes information about incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of animals traveling by air. (The numbers are small, though. The current report mentions only one incident, an injured pet.)

Readers interested in learning more, the full report is available at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/reports/index.htm, and detailed information on flight delays is available at http://www.bts.gov.
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