After falling far behind most other airlines in on-time performance in August and September while it replaced its striking mechanics, Northwest Airlines posted a significant increase in on-time arrivals in October.
In October, 80.6 percent of Northwest flights arrived on time, compared with an average of 81.3 percent for the 20 carriers tracked by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Northwest ranked 12th in on-time performance for the month.
"This shows the effects of the strike are behind Northwest,'' said Terry Trippler, a travel-industry expert with cheapseats.com. "They have on-time performance moving in the right direction and it will go up from here."
That should be the trend, he said, unless Northwest's drive to extract wage and other givebacks from its ground-worker, flight-attendant and pilot unions leads to more labor strife.
"They have to straighten out their problem with the other labor groups,'' Trippler said. "If they start a slowdown, here we go again."
Northwest hopes to have $1.4 billion in employee concessions in hand by mid-February, either through negotiated settlements or deals imposed by the judge overseeing its bankruptcy.
Northwest filed for bankruptcy in September.
In a brief statement, Northwest praised its employees for the "continued improvement in our on-time performance" and low number of flight cancellations.
In October, Hawaiian Airlines ranked No. 1, with 96.8 percent of its flights arriving on time. AirTran was last with just 74.6 percent of flights arriving on time.
Marks for other major carriers included: United, 83 percent; American, 82.1 percent; Southwest, 80.8 percent; Delta, 80.1 percent, and Continental, 78.1 percent.
A flight is considered on time if it arrives within 15 minutes of the schedule.
Eagan-based Northwest Airlines finished last in on-time performance among the nation's airlines in September, as stormy weather and the ongoing strike by its mechanics messed up flight operations. That month, 74.8 percent of Northwest flights arrived on time.
Northwest's union mechanics struck the carrier late on Aug. 19. The airline has hired workers to permanently replace strikers and farmed out most aircraft maintenance to outside contractors.
The airline has said its on-time performance was at its lowest point in the weeks leading up to the strike.
Martin J. Moylan covers airlines and can be reached at email@example.com or 651-228-5479.
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