By Samantha Bomkamp Associated Press
NEW YORK — U.S. airlines operated fewer on-time flights in February, the Department of Transportation said today, as massive snowstorms shut down some of the largest East Coast airports.
Sixty-one flights were delayed for at least three hours during the month — triple the number of those delays in January. It was the highest number of 3-hour tarmac delays since August 2009. August is one of the busiest months of the year for air travel.
Among the top five flights with the longest tarmac delays in February, four were operated by US Airways. Three were on the same route: Dallas/Fort Worth to Charlotte, N.C.
Cancellations also soared in February due to storms. Airlines canceled 26,281 scheduled domestic flights that month, more than twice the number in January.
But as they canceled thousands of flights because of weather, carriers did a slightly better job getting bags to where they were supposed to go. U.S. airlines reported a mishandled baggage rate of about 4 per 1,000 passengers in February, lower than January’s 4.62 mark. The rate in February 2009 was 3.63 per thousand passengers.
Hawaiian Airlines, largely isolated from bad weather, held its usual spot on top of the on-time list followed by Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
The worst on-time records belonged to Comair, Pinnacle and JetBlue. JetBlue is the biggest carrier at New York’s JFK and the largest domestic airline at Boston’s Logan, two airports that were hit hard by snow in February.
Comair, which operates as Delta Connection, led the pack with the highest number of canceled flights.
Eighteen airlines report monthly on-time data and causes of delays to the Department of Transportation. The delays are labeled under categories such as “Extreme Weather” and “National Aviation System Delay” that were created by the airlines, industry groups, travel agents and government officials.