U.S. airlines' on-time performance improved in January, the Department of Transportation said Monday, as they mishandled fewer bags and received fewer complaints than a month earlier.
Airlines' on-time performance has wavered in recent months as the industry has been increasing capacity amid a recovery in air travel demand. That makes skies more crowded, tending to leave carriers more vulnerable to delays.
The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 16 carriers reporting on-time performance had an overall rate of 76.3%, down from 78.7% a year earlier but up from 72% in December. The latest result represented the sixth-best January in the 17 years with comparable numbers. The agency said carriers canceled 3.9% of their scheduled flights, up from 2.5% a year earlier and 3.7% in December.
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.
JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) had the worst on-time performance in January at 65%, while Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s (HA) Hawaiian Airlines again had the best, with a 91.2% rate, followed by Alaska Air Group Inc.'s (ALK) Alaska Airlines, at 85.3%, and United Air, now a part of United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), at 84.5%.
Meanwhile, the industry had a mishandled baggage rate of 4.2 per 1,000 passengers in January, down from 4.56 a year earlier and the previous month's 4.8 rate. The DOT also received 855 overall complaints, compared with 928 and 753, respectively.
-By Matt Jarzemsky, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2240; email@example.com