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Airlines' on-time performance improved in August

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U.S. airlines' on-time performance and baggage handling improved in August, compared to the same month a year ago, the Transportation Department said Thursday.

JetBlue Airways Corp. had the worst on-time performance in August, while Hawaiian Airlines had the best.

The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 78.4 percent in August, higher than the 71.7 percent recorded a year earlier and 75.7 percent recorded in July of this year.

The agency said the carriers in August canceled 1.6 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, down from 1.9 percent in August 2007 and 1.7 percent in July of this year.

The airlines overall posted a mishandled baggage rate of 4.98 reports per 1,000 passengers in August, down from the rate a year earlier of 7.58 reports per 1,000 passengers but higher than the rate of 4.86 reports per 1,000 passengers recorded in July of this year.

Complaints also dropped. The DOT said it received 1,006 complaints about airline service from consumers in August, down 38.7 percent from the 1,639 complaints filed in August 2007 and 8 percent fewer than the 1,093 received in July of this year.

Second-to-last in July, JetBlue fell to the bottom in August in on-time performance. Its on-time arrival rate in the month was 64.7 percent. A JetBlue flight from Orlando, Fla., to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport was late 96.8 percent of the time during the month.

Delta Air Lines Inc.'s regional subsidiary, Comair, had the second lowest on-time arrival rate in August, at 67.4 percent. Delta's on-time arrival rate in August was 77.1 percent, which ranked 11th out of 19 airlines. Year-to-date, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines was at the bottom among the 19 reporting airlines in on-time performance.

Hawaiian topped the list with an on-time arrival rate in August of 92.3 percent. Regional carrier Pinnacle Airlines was No. 2 at 89.6 percent.

Among legacy carriers, Northwest Airlines Corp. had the best on-time arrival rate in August, at 85.3 percent, good for fourth overall. Among discount carriers, Southwest Airlines was best, at 84.4 percent, and fifth overall.

Comair had the worst mishandled baggage rate in August with 9.73 reports per 1,000 passengers. Hawaiian had the best at 2.89 reports per 1,000 passengers.

Airlines struggling with high fuel costs have been raising fees for handling luggage and in some cases adding new fees for a first bag. Many airlines have been raising fares, as well.

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