Despite airline delays falling in October, 2007 has still been the second-worse year for delays.
Airline Delays Fall in October
By DAN CATERINICCHIA AP Business Writer
WASHINGTON Ñ The airline industry’s on-time performance through the first 10 months of this year was the second worst on record, but delays in October fell compared with a year ago, according to the Transportation Department.
Additionally, some carriers avoided fines for chronically delayed flights by improving their performance in the third quarter, the department said.
The nation’s 20 largest carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 78.2 percent in October, up from 72.9 percent in the same month a year ago, but down from 81.7 percent in September, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
In October, 39.8 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down from 40.4 percent in the same month last year, but up from 34.2 percent in September.
Despite the improved October results, about 24 percent of flights arrived late in the first 10 months of the year. The industry’s on-time performance this year was the second worst since comparable data began being collected in 1995, coming in one-tenth of 1 percent better than the first 10 months of 2000.
Nearly 64 percent of flights on Atlantic Southeast Airlines were delayed in October. The Delta Connection carrier, which is owned by SkyWest Inc., had the lowest on-time arrival rate, followed by Alaska Airlines at 70.1 percent and Comair at 74.4 percent. Comair had three flights that were delayed by at least 15 minutes more than 90 percent of the time.
Still, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters on Monday said six airlines that operated chronically delayed flights in the first half of the year improved their performance in the third quarter and avoided fines of up to $25,000 per violation. The department in May began investigating flights that were at least 15 minutes late more than 70 percent of the time and identified 26 that met those criteria through the first six months of 2007.
“Tough scrutiny and a willingness to impose serious penalties have caused the airlines to correct these chronically delayed flights,” Peters said in a release.
The airline data come on the heels of a storm system that delayed hundreds of flights into the New York City area’s three main airports _ John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia _ for as long as two hours Sunday because of wind and ice. When the storm hit the Midwest on Saturday, airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport canceled hundreds of flights, a scene mirrored at airports in Des Moines and Milwaukee.
Federal aviation regulators in October held a two-day summit aimed at fixing “epidemic” delays at JFK, which had the third-worst on-time arrival record of any major U.S. airport through October, behind LaGuardia and Newark.
The government has proposed alleviating delays by reducing JFK’s hourly flight limit by 20 percent. But the airline industry’s trade group and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs JFK, both prefer flight-path changes and improvements aimed at increasing the airport’s capacity.
Customer complaints rose to 1,096 in October compared with 629 in the same month last year, according to the government data. But the rates of mishandled baggage fell to about 5.4 reports per 1,000 passengers from 7.5 reports a year ago.
Not all airlines performed poorly in October. Hawaiian Holdings Inc.’s Hawaiian Airlines had the highest on-time arrival rate at 94.6 percent, followed by Aloha Airlines at 91.5 percent and Frontier Airlines at 84.4 percent, according to government data.
The Bush administration and the Federal Aviation Administration last month announced a number of initiatives, including temporary use of military airspace off the Atlantic coast, to try and help with the Thanksgiving rush. But delays were up during the holiday week compared with last year due mainly to bad weather.
The airlines and the FAA are pressing for a new, satellite-based air traffic control system that will cost about $15 billion and take nearly 20 years to complete to help improve operations. The FAA in late August awarded ITT Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion to build the first portion the system.