U.S. Airlines Improve Their On-Time Performance

U.S. Airlines improve their on-time performance

2007 at McCarran International Airport, Boeing 737 of Southwest Airlines at McCarran International Airport, Files from BriYYZ Flickr stream

During the first six months of 2014, flight delays were the highest since 2008 and cancellations were the highest since 2000.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Wednesday that among 14 of the largest airlines, 75.6 percent of flights arrived on time in July, up from 73.1 percent in July 2013 and from June 2014’s 71.8 percent rate.

The airlines covered by the report canceled 1.6 percent of their trips, down from 1.7 percent a year earlier and 2 percent in June.

The best airlines for arriving on time were: Hawaiian, Delta and Alaska, all above 84 percent.

The worst airlines for arriving on time were: JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, with nearly one in three flights arriving late.

A spokesman for JetBlue said the airline was making better use of spare planes and adjusting staffing in its operations center to handle delays during summer thunderstorms. He said the airline’s August numbers, not yet released by the government, were better.

Southwest had a pattern of consistently late arrivals on most of their routes. According to the DOT, Southwest ran late more than half the time in May, June and July on three of the same short daily flights, a 6 p.m. Houston-Dallas trip, a 7:45 p.m. flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and a 9 p.m. Las Vegas-Phoenix flight. No other U.S. airline had any flights that were tardy so often for so long like Southwest did.

Accordingly, another 108 Southwest flights regularly ran late for two straight months. No other airline had more than six such chronically delayed flights.

Senior Vice President of Operations, Greg Wells, said that the airline thought it could boost revenue by adding 16 planes’ worth of new flights without increasing the fleet. Southwest has struggled to fly on time since changing its flight schedule back in August of 2013.

“We gave it our best shot,” Wells told reporters this week. “The combination of weather, higher load factors (fuller planes) and things like that just caused our on-time performance to plummet.”

The Department of Transportation said that two flights in July, one by Spirit Airlines and another by US Airways, were stuck on the tarmac longer than the allowed three hours. The two airlines could face fines for violating the DOT three hour rule.

Source: Time Magazine

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