DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
U.S. airlines' on-time performance in May improved over the previous month, the Department of Transportation said Thursday, though reports of mishandled bags and passenger complaints rose.
The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 16 reporting carriers had an overall on-time performance rate of 77.1% in May, down from 77.9% a year earlier but up from 75.5% in April. The agency said carriers canceled 2.1% of their scheduled flights, compared with 1.2% a year earlier and 2% in April.
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.
Airlines' on-time performance has been uneven in recent months as carriers boost their capacity to meet rising demand. That makes skies more crowded and leaves carriers more vulnerable to delays.
AMR Corp.'s (AMR) regional airline American Eagle had the worst on-time performance in May at 67.6%, followed by its main carrier American Airlines, which had a 70.3% rate. Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s (HA) Hawaiian Airlines again performed the best, with a 91.4% on-time rate, followed by Alaska Air Group's (ALK) namesake carrier.
The most frequently delayed trip for May was Frontier Airlines' flight 804 from Kansas City International Airport to New York's LaGuardia Airport, which was late 81% of the time. Frontier is a unit of Republic Airways Holdings Inc.'s (RJET).
Meanwhile, the industry had a mishandled baggage rate of 3.52 per 1,000 passengers in May, up from 3.23 a year earlier and April's 3.24 rate. The DOT also received 1,062 complaints in May, compared with 799 in the same month of 2010 and 879 in April.
Stepped-up fees for checked luggage have prompted fewer travelers to check bags, leaving airlines less exposed to the risk of mishandling them, but an overall rebound in air travel has also made some flights more crowded.
-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909; Andrew.FitzGerald@dowjones.com