Fliers Happy to End Holiday Travel Pains

Luggage is collected at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. With more passengers comes more baggage -- more of which is being lost.
Luggage is collected at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. With more passengers comes more baggage -- more of which is being lost. (Photo: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg)
By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The holidays brought no respite to air travelers like Sean Fox.

Delta Air Lines misplaced Fox's bags for a day after his arrival in South America on Dec. 22. On his return trip, his flight from Atlanta to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport arrived an hour and a half late on Sunday. The airline misplaced his bags again. He didn't get them back until late the next day.

Fox, a consultant in the District who racks up more than 100,000 frequent-flier miles a year, said he wasn't surprised that his holiday travel was so frustrating.

"It was just icing on the cake for a terrible year," he said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I added up all the time I was delayed last year, and it was probably a week of my life. I am annoyed. There is no other way to describe it. It just makes your blood boil."

Some analysts called recent weeks a microcosm of the problems that affected passengers across the country in 2007: increasing flight delays, millions of lost bags and planes that have never been so packed.

Through October, flights operated by the top 20 U.S. airlines arrived at least 15 minutes late or were canceled about 26 percent of the time -- the second-worst performance since 1995, according the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Yesterday, flights leaving Washington's three major airports were delayed by weather and high traffic. Flights to Chicago and Newark, N.J., were hit especially hard, with the average delay at least an hour.

Through late yesterday afternoon, the three local airports reported that about 77 percent of flights arrived on time, according to FlightStats, an aviation tracking service.

Nationwide, carriers said 74 percent of flights arrived on time, FlightStats reported.

That performance was far better than on other recent days. On Sunday, the airlines posted an on-time arrival rate of 65 percent at the nation's 35 busiest airports, with delayed flights arriving an average 54 minutes late, according to preliminary data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airlines did worse Friday and the previous weekend, with only about 50 percent of flights arriving on time, the preliminary data showed.

Kaitlin Hasseler's connecting flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Mich., was canceled, so she drove three hours to reach her family in time for Christmas. Still, she took the cancellation in stride.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company