Delays in the nation's aviation system intensified in October, causing the airline industry's on-time arrival record to fall from September's level, while still remaining ahead of last year.
Figures Monday from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics show 78.2 percent of domestic flights operated by the nation's biggest carriers arrived on time, down from 81.7 percent in September but stronger than October 2006, when 72.9 percent of flights landed on schedule.
Air Transport Association spokeswoman Victoria Day said U.S. airlines are doing what they can to improve on-time arrival rates, which have drawn criticism from the halls of Congress to the nation's airport concourses. But she contends that the spotty performance of many carriers is caused by circumstances they can't control.
"It once again punctuates the crying need for airspace modernization because that will help reduce delayed flights," said Day, whose organization represents most U.S. carriers.
Day's reasoning won support from the Air Travelers Association, a passenger rights group that puts more blame for delays on the Federal Aviation Administration's antiquated air traffic-control system than on airlines.
Passengers "are really victims of a large government failure at all levels," said David Stempler, the association's president. He believes the FAA should speed up modernization of the system to improve on-time performance.
"What we have here is a failure of infrastructure, and that's a government failure, but the people don't know it," Stempler said.
Aviation system holdups are attributed to bad weather, slow airport operations, delays ordered by air traffic controllers and heavy traffic volume, among other causes, according to the government.
Despite the problems nationwide, travelers in and out of Salt Lake City International Airport fared than most in October.
Of 12 airlines serving the airport, Frontier Airlines posted the best performance, with 89.2 percent of its flights arriving within 15 minutes of schedule.
Delta Air Lines, the dominant carrier in Salt Lake, landed 87.9 percent of flights on time, followed closely by Delta Connection partner SkyWest Airlines at 86.9 percent.
As it has done in several reporting periods this year, Salt Lake City's airport had the best performance among U.S. airports in October, with 86 percent of flights arriving on schedule. LaGuardia in New York had the worst record for the month. Just 59.6 percent of its flights on time.
The national rate of mishandled bags continued to improve, with 5.36 reports per 1,000 passengers. A month earlier, the rate was 5.45 reports and 7.49 reports in October of last year.
Passengers filed 1,096 complaints against the airlines in October, up from 895 in September and 629 a year ago.
More than half the complaints - 53 percent - were lodged because of flight problems or mishandled baggage.
Government figures out Monday show 86 percent of 12,282 flights that landed at Salt Lake City International Airport in October arrived on schedule. Here are the airlines serving Salt Lake City and their on-time rates.
* Frontier Airlines,
* JetBlue Airways,
* Delta Air Lines, 87.9 percent
* SkyWest Airlines,
* ExpressJet Airlines,
* US Airways, 82.6 percent
* Southwest Airlines,
* Continental Airlines,
* Northwest Airlines,
* American Airlines,
* Mesa Airlines, 75.5 percent
* United Airlines,