Tardy Flights Plague Delta

Delta Air Lines has touted its decision to fly jets, rather than turboprop planes, between Richmond and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The jets, which started flying in July, don't appear to have sped things up, though.

Five of Delta's eight daily flights between Richmond and JFK were among the nation's 100 most-frequently delayed flights in September. Two of those flights ranked as the 13th most delayed.

According to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Delta's late afternoon and early evening flights leaving New York's JFK to Richmond were late 92 percent of the time, creating average delays of 77 to 78 minutes.

With travel times of about 80 minutes, the findings mean passengers face delays that are nearly as long as the flight itself.

The list consists of 100 flights that were late 80 percent of the time or more in September.

Flights from Richmond to New York made the list six times - the five Delta flights plus one from Continental Airlines.

In addition to the two chronically late Delta flights, two others from Richmond to JFK tied at the 25th spot because they were late 88 percent of the time. A fifth Delta flight from JFK to Richmond - late 80 percent of the time - also was listed.

An evening Continental flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Richmond was the 30th most frequently late flight in the country.

All of the flights were provided by regional carriers - Comair for Delta, and ExpressJet for Continental.

"Delta's on-time performance for Delta and Delta Connection flights at JFK did not meet our expectations during September," Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said.

Delta is working to make changes with its affiliated carriers "to ensure a more on-time operation moving forward," she said.

Other aviation officials blamed heavy air traffic congestion and late summer weather.

Continental spokeswoman Julie King said the carrier has tried to spread Newark departures throughout the day "to reduce the demand on the air-traffic-control system."

Richmond airport spokesman Troy Bell said that when planes leave late for New York, it's often because of clogged air space in the Northeast.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a congestion issue in Richmond," he said. "Most of the issue is attributable to operations in the New York area."

This is borne out by the government figures, which show planes left Richmond on time 74.4 percent of the time in September, compared to an on-time arrival rate of 64.3 percent.

Nationally, planes arrived on time 76.2 percent of the time. The government's results don't include a national average for departure times.

There's a limited amount of gate space, taxiways and runways at the three New York-area airports.

"The system is overburdened," he said.

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