Friday, August 10, 2012

Airlines doing better at being on time, keeping up with bags - Fort Worth Star Telegram

On time more

of the time

Percentage of flights arriving on time in the first six months of 2012.

1. Hawaiian 93.35

2. AirTran 89.65

3. Alaska 87.47

4. Delta 87.41

5. US Airways 87.29

6. Mesa 86.73

7. Southwest 85.37

8. Virgin America 83.96

9. SkyWest 82.98

10. American Eagle 82.91

11. JetBlue 82.11

12. American 81.79

13. United 78.61

14. Frontier 78.30

15. ExpressJet 78.27

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NEW YORK -- U.S. airlines are more punctual and less likely to lose your bag than at any time in more than two decades.

Nearly 84 percent of domestic flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled time in the first half of the year -- the best performance since the government started keeping track in 1988 -- versus 77 percent in the same period a year earlier. The improvement is mostly a result of good weather and fewer planes in the sky because of the weak economy.Of 15 carriers reported, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines ranked No. 7, at 85.4 percent of flights on time, and Fort Worth-based American Airlines ranked No. 12, at 81.8 percent. The information is from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.Airlines are also doing a better job with baggage. Fewer than three bags per 1,000 passengers were reported lost, damaged or delayed from January through June, a record low.The two areas of improvement are related: When flights are late, bags often miss connections.American ranked No. 9, at 2.8 bags mishandled per 1,000 passengers, and Southwest was No. 10, at 2.9 bags.The government also ranked on-time performance by airport. Of 29 U.S. airports, Dallas/Fort Worth ranked No. 17, at 84.2 percent.Airlines' best on-time performance was in 1991, at nearly 83 percent. The worst was in 2000, at 73 percent.There are still problems. About 1 in 6 flights is late -- and that's after airlines have adjusted schedules to account for congestion, said airline consultant Michael Boyd."That's an indictment, not a record," he said.The recession led fewer people to fly and prompted airlines to ground planes, clearing up airspace. In 2007, 14.8 million airplanes took off and landed at the nation's 35 largest airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Last year, the number was down 10 percent to 13.3 million.And since luggage fees were introduced five years ago, fewer bags are in the system. But airlines say that isn't the reason for improvement.They say investments in new technology are paying off, noting that carriers like Southwest and JetBlue, which don't charge for the first checked bag, have also seen improvement.At American Airlines, a new system provides real-time directions to baggage tugs. If a flight is delayed or a gate is changed, the driver is given a new order to deliver bags rather than a printout that was "obsolete the minute it's printed," said Maya Leibman, the airline's chief information officer.Ramp workers at American also have 2,000 hand-held devices to scan a suitcase before it's loaded. If a worker tries to load a bag onto the wrong flight, the device flashes a warning and vibrates.The number of bags loaded onto the wrong flight is down 26 percent.Southwest changed procedures at its larger airports to speed up baggage transfers.

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