U.S. airlines’ on-time performance excelled in November, the Department of Transportation reported Thursday, as carriers achieved the best timeliness rate in at least a decade.
The decline in travel because of the recession prompted airlines to cut capacity, which has made airports and the skies less crowded. That reduces flight delays and cancellations when bad weather or other problems occur.
The DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance had an overall rate of 88.6%, up from 83.3% a year earlier and 77.3% in October. The agency said carriers canceled 0.5% of their scheduled flights, compared with 0.8% and 1%, respectively.
A flight is counted as “on time” if it operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time shown in the carriers’ computerized reservation system.
SkyWest Inc.’s Atlantic Southeast Airlines had the worst on-time performance in November at 80.5%, while Hawaiian Holdings Inc.’s Hawaiian Airlines yet again had the best, with a 93.3% rate. AirTran Holdings Inc.’s namesake discount carrier had the second-worst rate, at 80.6%. UAL Corp.’s United and Southwest Airlines Co. followed Hawaiian atop the list at 92.6% and 92%, respectively.
The agency didn’t list the most frequently delayed trip in November, as no flight arrived late at least 80% of the time during the month.
Meanwhile, the industry had a mishandled baggage rate of 2.78 per 1,000 passengers in November, down from 3.75 a year earlier and October’s 3.48 rate. The drop in travel demand also led many carriers to impose new fees for checked luggage. As fewer travelers check luggage, the less opportunity airlines have to bungle their handling.
The DOT received 552 general complaints in November, up from 533 a year ago but down from the previous month’s 896.