October Airline Punctuality for U.S. Is Worst in 8 Years

U.S. airlines had their worst October on-time performance in the eight years since the U.S. government began tracking carriers' punctuality, driving up traveler complaints and reports of lost luggage.

The Transportation Department said Wednesday that 72.9 percent of October flights arrived on time, compared with 81.3 percent a year earlier. October was the first full month for new U.S. rules for carry-on liquids after a ban for most of August and September.

Lost-baggage complaints surged 51 percent to 7.51 for every 1,000 passengers. Overall complaints, covering everything from ticket prices to in-flight service, rose 10 percent to 0.79 for each 100,000 passengers.

Airlines have been processing more checked baggage since U.K. authorities disrupted a terrorist plot to blow up airliners using liquid explosives. New rules banning liquids went into effect Aug. 10 and were relaxed on Sept. 25.

The Transportation Department defines an on-time arrival as one that's within 15 minutes of schedule. The agency's figures cover 19 U.S. carriers that account for 95 percent of airline-passenger revenue.

Delta Air Lines Inc. had the lowest on-time rating among 19 U.S. carriers at 65.9 percent, the department said.

Only Delta's Comair unit, at 64.9 percent, and St. George-based SkyWest Inc.'s Atlantic Southeast unit, at 55 percent, ranked lower. Both carriers fly regional traffic for Atlanta-based Delta.

Spokeswoman Betsy Talton said runway construction at Delta's Atlanta hub hurt its performance. "Unfortunately, we missed the mark this month," she said. The construction ended on Nov. 6, she said, and on-time arrivals should increase.

Hawaiian Holdings Inc.'s Hawaiian Airlines Inc. had the highest on-time rating at 91.6 percent, followed by Frontier Airlines Inc. at 85.3 percent.

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