Oct. 8--Passengers coming to Fresno Yosemite International Airport arrive on time more often than in most cities -- but when there's a delay, they wait just as long as anyone else.
Those are among the findings of a national study on airport travel, which ranked Fresno 15th among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas for on-time airline arrivals.
Salt Lake City topped the list, with 86 percent of its flights arriving on time during June. Fresno Yosemite International flights arrived on schedule 82.2 percent of the time for the same month.
Fresno airport officials said they were pleased with the results of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution report, released Wednesday.
"It's good news," said Vikkie Calderon, airport spokeswoman. "Throughout the year, we are usually represented in the 80th percentile for on-time arrival performance."
Calderon said there are many factors that can contribute to flight delays, including congestion at larger airports, weather or mechanical issues.
Researchers said a high number of short airline trips -- less than 500 miles -- between cities puts the greatest pressure on the system. For example, the 10 metro areas generating the largest share of flights of less than 500 miles were responsible for 42 percent of all domestic departure flights.
"The short hauls are the most taxing in the air transit system," said Adie Tomer, a co-author of the report.
Tomer blamed the congestion on big airlines' reliance on hub-and-spoke networks that push more flights into crowded hub airports, and on the growing number of short flights between big cities such as New York-Boston, New York-Washington and Los Angeles-San Francisco.
The researchers found that nationwide the number of flights landing at least two hours late has more than doubled in the last two decades. And they expect the situation to worsen as the economy recovers and more people chose airline travel over other options.
The average delay has also risen, to nearly an hour -- up from 40.9 minutes in 1990.
During delays, Fresno's airline passengers waited an average 54.4 minutes during June. The worst was 68.6 minutes in the New York, northern New Jersey and Long Island area.
Some findings in the Brookings report were hardly surprising.
The researchers found New York to be the worst metro area in the country for late flights, something that has been evident in monthly on-time reports from the Transportation Department.
About 30 percent of arrivals and 22 percent of departures in New York are late.
The Brookings researchers found most delays concentrated in 26 cities -- especially New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco.
To improve the situation, Brookings researchers suggested the use of technology that would allow planes to fly closer together, consider privatizing airports, and let airports charge airlines more for takeoff and landing slots during peak hours.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.