Airlines turn in worst showing since Aug.

78.6 percent of flights arrive on time in March, government report says

May 07, 2002|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON - Major U.S. airlines completed just 78.6 percent of flights on time in March, their worst showing since August, as air travel recovers after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Transportation Department said in a report yesterday.

"The delays are starting to creep back up and congestion is an issue we're going to see rear its ugly head again," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, a consumer group. "Congestion problems will return."

Major airlines have cut fares to boost traffic and recover from the attacks and a slump in corporate travel. Miles flown by paying passengers fell 8.8 percent in March, the smallest drop from a year-earlier month since the hijackings.

March's on-time rate fell from 84.7 percent in February and was the lowest since a rate of 76.2 percent in August. Still, the rate was up from 75.2 percent in March 2001 and marked the 12th straight month of improved results from a year-earlier month.

Continental Airlines Inc. and America West Holdings Corp.'s America West Airlines led the 10 biggest carriers in March by completing 84.8 percent of flights within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time. Northwest Airlines Corp. had the lowest on-time rate of 70.7 percent, followed by Alaska Air Group Inc.'s Alaska Airlines with 73.3 percent, the report said.

A separate report issued by the FAA shows that delays rose 45 percent in March from February and were down 31 percent from the year-earlier month. Delays attributable to weather almost doubled to 13,556 in March from 7,738 in February, the FAA said.

Carriers mishandled 4.52 bags per 1,000 pieces of luggage in March, fewer than the 5.03 bags per 1,000 they mishandled in the year-earlier month and more than their 3.85 showing in February, according to the DOT report.

Carriers also canceled 1.3 percent of scheduled U.S. flights in March, which was less than 3.4 percent in March 2001 and more than the 1.1 percent in February.

Thirty-two of the busiest airports in April recorded 91 percent as much traffic as they did a year earlier, said Peter Challan, a Federal Aviation Administration deputy associate administrator.

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