Atlantic Southeast Airlines Has Highest Delay Rate

Known as ASA, the regional airline has long grappled with service issues.

Rick Bernskoetter, spokesman for the pilots' union at ASA, believes a combination of short-staffing, high turnover and cramped and poorly designed gate areas in Atlanta cause most delays.

"Our on-time performance doesn't fall apart in the air. It falls apart on the ground," Bernskoetter said. He has had to park his plane for more than an hour waiting for a gate, he said.

Kolshak agreed crew shortages are a big reason why ASA hasn't kept up with its flight schedules. Delta typically gives ASA's regional jets 45 minutes at the gate to get ready for the next flight.

"If you only have one crew for three planes, you only have a third of that ... time. That is the problem," Kolshak said.

DiNota said ASA has raised ramp employees' pay and expects ramp operations to be fully staffed by December.

ASA will still be somewhat at Delta's mercy. The bigger carrier decides how many flights ASA should handle, how much time it has and whose flights will be cancelled when bad weather threatens. ASA's rate of flight cancellations this summer --- among the highest in the industry --- was about 60 percent higher than Delta's.

Kolshak acknowledged Delta sometimes grounds contract carriers' smaller jets first when air traffic clogs up. "We have to triage," he said. DiNota said one good move came when Delta agreed to use its own ramp staff in Atlanta to take care of other regional carriers' jets, freeing up about 150 ASA employees. He hopes travelers will see obvious improvements before next summer.

"We're very focused," he said.


The airline's Atlanta hub chief points to signs of progress:

* Hiring 300 more employees.

* Spending $5 million on facilities and equipment.

* Restructuring baggage procedures. For instance, carts for an outgoing flight will always be parked and unloaded in one spot, rather than in a dozen "zones" that led to confusion.

* Putting separate crews at each plane's parking spot, rather than have one crew handle multiple planes.

* Working on better schedule coordination with Delta.

* ASA crews no longer have to handle flights for other Delta partners.


ASA fell to last place among 20 airlines in on-time rates and baggage handling this summer, according to monthly service reports by the U.S. DOT. Here are ASA's rankings, along with those of partner Delta and rival AirTran, which dominate Atlanta travel. (On-time flights are flights arriving within 15 minutes of schedule. Lost luggage rates are mishandled baggage reports per 1,000 passengers.)

On-time flights

............May.........June ......July........Aug.........Sept

ASA..........15th/74.6...20th/63.5..20th/57.3 ..20th/58.1 ..20th/55.5

Delta ........5th/82.2 ...8th/74.0 ..7th/77.0 ..10th/76.0 ..18th/68.6

AirTran......12th/78.8...11th/71.5 ..8th/75.6 ..16th/72.3 ..17th/70.8

Ind. avg. ........78.3 .......72.8 ......73.7........75.8........76.2

Lost luggage

ASA..........19th/11.33 .20th/19.20 20th/16.90..20th/21.56..20th/24.13

Delta........11th/ 4.75 .13th/ 6.64 13th/ 6.61..13th/ 9.0 ..15th/ 9.58

AirTran ......9th/ 4.41 .12th/ 5.55 11th/ 5.9 ..49th/ 6.99 ..5th/ 5.36

Ind. avg...........4.94 .......6.28 ......6.50........8.08........8.25

Source: U.S. DOT Air Travel Consumer Report.

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