Flight Delays Increase Despite Airlines' Efforts to Improve

Associated Press

Airline flight delays and baggage problems increased during November, the Transportation Department reported Wednesday in its monthly score card on the airline industry.

Meanwhile, the number of consumer complaints to the government from airline travelers increased in December after three months of decline, the department said. Officials cautioned, however, that December historically has a high complaint rate.

The jump in complaints and the poorer on-time performance came despite efforts by the airlines to improve their service and on-time record in recent months.

Chronically Tardy Cited

The department said one in every four flights was at least 15 minutes late during November, compared to about one in five in October. Travelers also filed more lost baggage complaints--7.88 per 1,000 passengers in November, compared to 6.94 complaints the previous month.

The department cited 71 chronically tardy flights that arrived late at least 80% of the time during November, including one flight--Delta 943 from Cincinnati to Jackson, Miss.--that arrived late each of the 28 times it flew. Thirteen other flights arrived late at least 90% of the time.

Flights arrived late at least one-fourth of the time at 15 of the 27 major airports covered by the government reporting requirements. New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport had the worst arrival record with only 59.7% of its flights on time.

On average at all 27 airports, flights arrived on time 75.1% of the time. The best on-time performance was reported by the Charlotte, N.C., airport, Chicago's O'Hare and Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, all with arrival rates of just over 80%.

"While poor weather may have affected the overall on-time performance during November, I am concerned about the increase in delays from the previous month and will continue to closely monitor airline performance records to see where improvements still need to be made," said Transportation Secretary James Burnley.

Best and Worst

The consumer report covers on-time performance and baggage complaint information filed by 14 airlines.

For the third month in a row, American Airlines reported the best on-time record with 83.2% of its flights arriving within 15 minutes of schedule. Southwest Airlines was second at 82.7% and United Airlines, with 79.8%, moved from sixth the previous month to third.

Continental Airlines, which has touted its on-time performance, dropped from third in October to ninth in November when 74.5% of its flights arrived on time.

Delta Air Lines had the worst on-time record among the 14 carriers in November with 70.1% of its flights arriving on time. That month as well as in December, however, Delta had among the fewest complaints by passengers to the Transportation Department.

Four airlines--Northwest, Piedmont, USAir and Pacific Southwest--rounded out the five carriers with the worst on-time record in November with each reporting about 73% of the flights arriving on time.

While the on-time and baggage performance covers flights in November, the department's statistics on complaints to its consumer affairs office cover December.

Baggage Problems

During December, the department received 2,939 complaints, a 6.3% increase over the November figures. Officials said complaints historically are higher during December because of the heavy holiday travel and that the year's month-to-month increase was less dramatic than usual.

As it has during much of the year, Continental Airlines had the worst complaint record with 18.7 complaints per 100,000 passengers flown. Northwest Airlines followed with 15.78 complaints and Eastern Airlines 14.28 complaints.

United Airlines had the largest number of mishandled baggage complaints in November with 10.2 per 1,000 passengers flown. Trans World Airlines had the second highest at 10.01 complaints per 1,000 passengers followed by Northwest at 9.89 complaints.


Percentage of on-time flights at L.A. International Airport in November:American 83.1%

Alaska 81.9%

USAir 80.8%

Pan American 80.7%

TWA 76.6%

United 75.9%

Pacific Southwest 74.8%

Eastern 69.7%

Northwest 65.6%

America West 65.1%

Continental 65.0%

Southwest 62.1%

Delta 58.5%

Piedmont 39.3%


Overall percentage of flights arriving on time during November:

American 83.2%

Southwest 82.7%

United 79.8%

TWA 77.5%

America West 77.1%

Eastern 76.6%

Alaska 75.4%

Pan American 74.6%

Continental 74.5%

Pacific Southwest 73.3%

USAir 73.2%

Piedmont 73.2%

Northwest 73.0%

Delta 70.1%


Flight % 15 minutes Airline number Origin/destination late or more Delta 943 Cincinnati/Jackson,Miss. 100.00% Delta 957 Newark/Cincinnati 96.55% Delta 894 Cincinnati/Fort Wayne, Ind. 96.55% Piedmont 9 Charlotte, N.C./Los Angeles 96.55% Piedmont 161 Charlotte, N.C./Tampa, Fla. 96.43% Delta 1947 Los Angeles/Sacramento 96.15% Alaska 707 Orange County/Seattle 95.65% Southwest 967 El Paso/Houston 95.65% America West 3 Las Vegas/Chicago O'Hare 93.75% Piedmont 47 Charlotte, N.C./Roanoke, Va. 93.75% Delta 125 Baltimore/Atlanta 93.10% Delta 371 Cincinnati/Little Rock 92.86% Southwest 967 Los Angeles/El Paso 92.86% Delta 662 Cincinnati/New York La Guardia 92.59% Eastern 258 Los Angeles/Kansas City, Mo. 89.66%

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