DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
U.S. airlines' on-time performance deteriorated in May and they mishandled more bags than in the prior month, the Department of Transportation said Thursday, although fewer complaints were made than a month earlier.
The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 18 carriers reporting on-time performance had an overall rate of 79.9%, down from 80.5% a year earlier and 85.3% in April. The agency said carriers canceled 1.2% of their scheduled flights, compared with 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively.
A flight is counted as being on time if it operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time shown in the carriers' computerized reservation system.
The figures come as airlines have been increasing capacity to satisfy a recovery in air travel after woefully low levels over the past two years. A decline in travel because of the recession had prompted airlines to cut capacity, which made airports and the skies less crowded and reduced flight delays and cancellations when bad weather or other problems occurred.
Comair Ltd. (COM.JO) had the worst on-time performance in May at 67.1%, while Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s (HA) Hawaiian Airlines again had the best, with a 94.3% rate. AMR Corp.'s (AMR) American Eagle had the second-worst rate, at 73.1%, followed by Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) with 75.6%. Alaska Air Group Inc.'s (ALK) airline and US Airways Group Inc. (LCC) followed Hawaiian atop the timeliness list at 91.5% and 85.3%, respectively.
The most chronically delayed trip was American Eagle flight 3621 from Miami to Norfolk, Va., which was late more than half the time in both April and May. In May, it was late 51% of the time.
Meanwhile, the industry had a mishandled baggage rate of 3.29 per 1,000 passengers in May, down from 3.65 a year earlier but worse than April's 2.89 rate. The DOT also received 801 overall complaints in May, compared with 655 a year earlier and 878 in April, respectively.
The drop in travel demand also led many carriers to impose new fees for checked luggage. As fewer travelers check bags, airlines have fewer chances to mishandle them.
-By Matt Jarzemsky and Joan E. Solsman, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2240; firstname.lastname@example.org