BWI on worst list

It's among 10 airports with most departure delays


Baltimore's airport has made a Top 10 list it would prefer not to be on.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was among the worst major airports for delayed departures last summer, according to newly compiled rankings by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and the situation has only gotten worse with this summer's record travel.

The union has set up a Web site,, with past and current flight information to permit passengers to see what they are in for when they book an airline and airport.

BWI was the 10th-worst departure airport in August 2005, with 23.57 percent of flights delayed that month, according to the rankings, which are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Worse records were compiled by Atlanta (37.38 percent of flights delayed), Newark, N.J. (27.59 percent) and Las Vegas (25.20 percent), but BWI had more delays than Boston (23.16 percent), New York's LaGuardia International (21.93) and Los Angeles (16.59 percent).

BWI was the 16th worst for arrival delays, with 23.06 percent of flights delayed last August. That's behind such airports as Salt Lake City (39.43 percent of arrivals delayed), Chicago Midway (32.28 percent) and Washington National (26.02 percent).

A flight is considered delayed by the FAA when it exceeds scheduled departure and arrival times by more than 15 minutes. The union calculations don't include what it calls built-in buffers, such as the eight minutes the federal agency allows for a plane to taxi to the runway.

The controllers chose August to highlight so passengers could compare "apples to apples" with their current travel plans, the union said.

"The purpose of the Web site is to inform the public," said John Dunkerly, a union representative and a BWI controller since 1998. "I am in no way advocating not using BWI; I'm just asking people to use the site to plan their itineraries. For example, book around congested times and leave more time to connect."

The controllers' union has been battling the FAA over a new contract that the agency plans to implement over the union's objections, and the labor organization has been sounding alarms over future shortages of controllers.

Even with a full slate of controllers, Dunkerly says BWI is performing worse than last year, and the problem could get worse. Federal statistics show that in June of this year, the latest month available, BWI flights had an on-time arrival rate of 70.12 percent, down from 75.15 percent in June 2005.

All flights on major carriers arrived on time 72.8 percent of the time this June, according to the federal statistics. That's down from June of last year, when 75.2 percent of flights were on time.

For departures, BWI's on-time rate this June was 69.24 percent, down from 74.14 percent last year. BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said many of the factors affecting delays were beyond the airport's control.

"Just like we can't control the price of jet fuel, we can't control the weather here or in Atlanta or Orlando," he said. "Flights are delayed because of the weather, airline issues and crew or maintenance issues."

The airport can control concessions, parking and ticket counter space, he said, adding that those areas have been upgraded in recent years.

The controllers say that BWI passengers would do well to avoid the airport between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., when 41.3 percent of arriving flights were delayed last August. Flights from 5 p.m. into the evening were among the worst times. The best time to arrive was between 8 a.m and 9 a.m., although 7 a.m. to noon flights also were delayed less than 9 percent of the time.

Among airlines serving BWI, the controllers say, AirTran Airways had the worst average arrival delay in August 2005 - 23.03 minutes. The airline is Baltimore's second-largest carrier.

Delays on Southwest Airlines, BWI's largest carrier by far, averaged 6.79 minutes that month. An AirTran spokeswoman had not seen the site and couldn't respond to a request for comment yesterday evening. A Southwest spokeswoman said weather and the record number of people flying have created problems for the airline this summer.

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