On-time arrival of US-based airlines improve in September 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 6:11 by Jose Philip

On-time arrival of airlines based in the United States improved in September 2009, the highest in 6 years, even as the number of scheduled flights dropped to the lowest for a September since 2002.

The on-time arrival rate of September 2009 was 86.2%, as against 86.4% in October 2003, according to the United States Department of Transportation.

The US federal government considers a flight as on-time if it arrives within 15 minutes of schedule.

The statistics provided by the Transportation Department covered 19 airlines — all the major carriers based in the United States, plus a few smaller ones.

The figures for September 2009 showed the trend of on-time performance getting improved as airlines operated lesser number of flights and replaced large aircraft with smaller ones on certain routes.

This also resulted in less crowding at airport gates, at terminals, and on runways.

In a report, the Department of Transportation said that the result for September 2009 was also the fourth-best figure recorded for any month in all the 15 years for which it has records.

The best-ever performance by US-based carriers vis-à-vis On-time arrival was recorded in September 2002 – when the Department of Transportation had tracked a total of 430,000 to gather data.

In its report, the Department of Transportation said that, with less number of people flying and with airlines cutting the number of seats on account of the global economic downturn, congestion has eased.

The Department of Transportation monitored about 511,000 flights in September 2009 – down from around 541,000 flights it tracked in September 2008.

From January 2009 through September 2009, United States-based carriers posted a 79.6% on-time rate – the best since September 2003, when the rate was 82.3%.

Hawaiian Airlines recorded the on-time rate in September 2009, 94.1%.

Hawaiian Airlines was followed by Alaska Airlines, at 90%, and Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines, at 89.1%.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines, owned by SkyWest Incorporated, posted the lowest on- time arrival rate – at 72.2% – followed by Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, at 80.5%.

The on- time arrival rate for Delta Air Lines was 82.2% in September 2009.

Flights that recorded the worst on-time performance included 3 flights of Atlantic Southeast Airlines to Atlanta; AirTran Airways Flight 455 from New Orleans to Atlanta; and SkyWest Flight 4547 from Atlanta to Oklahoma City.

Three regional airlines – Atlantic Southeast Airlines, American Eagle Airlines, and Mesa Airlines – recorded the highest rates of cancelled flights.

Continental Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue were those “least likely to cancel a flight,” according to the Department of Transportation.

In September 2009, the number of complaints regarding cancellations of flights and mishandled baggage came down.

In same month, 2 flights had to wait on the tarmac for over 4 hours – on September 21, 2009, a Delta Air Lines flight from Philadelphia to Atlanta remained on the ground for 4 and 35 minutes, while a flight of American Airlines, on the same day, from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Tulsa (Oklahoma), sat on the ground for 4 and 27 minutes.

The 3 airport of the New York area – John F Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport, in New Jersey – were the most congested among major airports in September 2009, with 71% flights arriving on time.