Airlines’ on-time performance falls, U.S. says

WASHINGTON — Airlines are struggling to stay on schedule, with nearly one in four flights arriving late.

The Transportation Department said Thursday that April’s on-time rating was worse than April 2012 and worse than the average for the month going back 18 years. The airlines blamed much of the increase on bad weather.

The worst on-time rating was turned in by American Eagle. That’s the regional carrier owned by AMR Corp., whose American Airlines subsidiary had the poorest rating among the nation’s five biggest carriers.

A computer system crash on April 16 caused American and Eagle to cancel many flights and hundreds of others were late. AMR CEO Tom Horton went on YouTube to apologize and blame the breakdown on a software problem that hit the company’s main and backup computer systems.

Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines were the top three in April on-time arrivals, with each over 85 percent, the government said.

Among the busiest 29 U.S. airports, passengers were most likely to be delayed on their way to Newark, N.J. — only 65.6 percent of flights arrived on time. At Salt Lake City, however, 85.3 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, which is the government’s definition of on time.

Two flights were delayed on the tarmac for at least three hours, which could expose the carriers to fines from the Transportation Department.

One was an April 19 Delta flight that sat on the ground at New York’s LaGuardia Airport for 183 minutes before returning to the gate. The other was an April 8 United Airlines flight from Pittsburgh to Denver that was diverted to Colorado Springs, Colo., where it sat for 182 minutes.

The Transportation Department said among the 16 airlines that report such information to the government, 77.3 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule in April. That was down sharply from 86.3 percent in the same month last year and below the April average of 80.26 percent for the previous 18 years.

The airlines said that 34.3 percent of delays were caused by bad weather, up from 28.5 percent in April 2012. They said that only 5.3 percent of delays were due to factors within their control, such as maintenance problems or crew shortages, although that was a slight increase over April 2012.

The rate of damaged, lost or delayed luggage rose slightly, to just over three bags for every 1,000 passengers.

The Transportation Department said that it received 684 complaints about U.S. airlines from consumers, seven fewer than in April 2012.

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