By Roger Yu
Flights on U.S. airlines arrived late more often in the first four months of this year than in any other year since the government began tracking the numbers 13 years ago.
The Department of Transportation reported Monday that only 72% of domestic flights by the USA’s 20 largest airlines arrived on time in January, February, March and April, the worst showing for those four months since DOT began reporting on-time performance this way in 1995.
That’s bad news for the 209 million passengers expected to fly on U.S. airlines this summer, shaping up as one of the busiest ever. Although April showed improvement, the four months included crises such as a February ice storm in New York and computer woes at US Airways (LCC) in March.
About 40% of the delays were weather-related, the report said. Other factors included late-arriving aircraft, maintenance and crew problems, and coordination of flights at airports.
The three airports run by the Port of Authority of New York & New Jersey – Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy – reported the three worst on-time records of major U.S. airports. Newark, where 55% of flights arrived on time, was worst.
The Port Authority said last week it will set up a task force to study ways to reduce delays. “It’s the most congested airspace in the world,” said Port Authority spokesman Marc LaVorgna.
US Airways, with 63% of flights on time, was the worst performer in April, followed by JetBlue (JBLU) and Comair, a regional carrier owned by Delta Air Lines (DAL). US Airways, which merged with America West in 2005, merged the reservations systems in March. The switch caused many US Airways airport check-in kiosks to crash, causing long lines and countless flight delays.
From January through April, the U.S. carriers also canceled 2.8% of all domestic flights, the highest percentage since 2001.
Passenger complaints to the DOT in April about bad airline service doubled from a year earlier, to 955. The complaint volume dropped from March. US Airways accounted for the highest number of complaints to DOT in April. “It was a hangover from a difficult month we had in March,” said spokesman Morgan Durrant.
Other airlines’ service has also generated large numbers of complaints to the DOT. The April complaint rates for American (AMR), Delta, Northwest and United (UAUA) were all sharply higher than a year earlier.
Contributing: Barbara Hansen
Source: USA TODAY