The worst July for on-time flights

Almost one in three U.S. airline flights failed to arrive on time in July, the worst delays on record for the month, amid bad weather and a surge in traffic.

Just 70 percent of flights arrived on schedule in July, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics said yesterday, based on reports from the 20 largest carriers. The results brought the average for the first seven months to 72 percent, also a record low. The worst previous July was in 2000.

"Record delays are disappointing," said David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group. "We're seeing a growing volume of traffic in the airspace system and an air-traffic control system that is incapable of handling that growth. Weather does play a role."

Kennedy Airport had the worst on-time rate in July, with 57 percent of flights arriving on schedule. LaGuardia Airport was second worst at 60 percent, followed by Miami at 61 percent.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the world's busiest airspace, and the airlines are asking Congress to change funding of air-traffic control to speed its overhaul. ITT Corp. won a $1.8-billion contract Aug. 30 to move to a satellite-based system from one that relies on radar.

Flights are considered on time if they arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival.

Regional carriers also have seen their workload increase, having served 155.7 million passengers last year, up 38 percent from 2003, according to the Washington-based Regional Airline Association. Those carriers, which include Mesa Air Group Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc.'s Comair subsidiary, operated at nearly 74 percent of capacity on average last year, up from 66 percent four years ago.

SkyWest Inc.'s Atlantic Southeast unit, which had the lowest on-time performance last year, also had the worst record in July, with just 54 percent of flights arriving on time.

The government received 1,717 complaints about airlines in July, the most since August 2000, when there were 2,380, the transportation department said in a separate report.

Nearly two-thirds of complaints were about problems such as flight cancellations or lost baggage. US Airways Group Inc. took the most criticism, with about five complaints per 100,000 passengers.