2007 on Pace to Be Worst Year For Airlines' On-Time Performance

Among major carriers, US Airways had the poorest performance in the year's first eight months, with 64 percent of its flights arriving on time.
Among major carriers, US Airways had the poorest performance in the year's first eight months, with 64 percent of its flights arriving on time. (By Keith Srakocic -- Associated Press)
By John Hughes
Bloomberg News
Thursday, October 4, 2007

Almost one in three U.S. airline flights failed to arrive on time in August, the second-worst performance ever for the month, as 2007 stayed on a record pace for delays.

Just 72 percent of August flights arrived on schedule, a drop from 76 percent a year earlier, the Transportation Department said in a report yesterday. The only August with a lower rate was in 2000, with 70 percent. This year, 72 percent of arrivals have been on time, the worst turnout since the current measurement of the figures began in 1995.

"The summer of our discontent continues," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association. "It just seems to be business as usual with flight delays."

The report may increase pressure on the Bush administration to act. Bush told Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Sept. 27 to consider cutting flight schedules at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and adding fees for airlines at the busiest hours of the day.

JFK was among four northeastern U.S. airports that were the most congested in the United States for the month. New York's LaGuardia, Newark's Liberty and Philadelphia joined JFK with on-time arrival rates of less than 62 percent.

Peters created a task force to recommend solutions for New York's airspace by Dec. 10. Stempler, a task force member, said any fix should maintain an adequate number of flights.

"The worst thing for passengers with any of these solutions is to exchange delayed flights for higher fares and fewer flights," said Stempler, whose group is based in Potomac. "We need to come up with solutions that either provide better ways to handle demand or divert that demand to other facilities."

SkyWest's Atlantic Southeast unit, which flies commuter planes for Delta Air Lines, had the lowest on-time performance for the month, at 55 percent; and for the year through August, 64 percent. Atlantic Southeast also had the lowest rate a year earlier.

Among larger carriers, United Airlines had the lowest August rate, at 66 percent; and US Airways had the lowest in the year's first eight months, at 64 percent.

Southwest Airlines had the highest on-time rate among larger carriers for the month, with 78 percent of flights on time. For the year through August, its on-time rate was 80 percent.

Almost all of the August delays were because of aircraft arriving late from a previous flight, weather, air-traffic congestion or airline maintenance or crew problems, the report showed.

The Transportation Department said complaints about lost and mishandled bags reached a rate of 7.55 per 1,000 passengers in August, a drop from 8.10 in the same month last year.

AMR's American Eagle has the highest baggage complaint rate, 13.96; followed by Atlantic Southeast at 13.68. Among larger carriers, US Airways had the highest rate, 9.61.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company