Airline on-time rate hits nine-year high in 2012

By Bill Poling
U.S. airlines produced near-record results for on-time performance last year and a record low in the number of consumer reports of mishandled baggage, according to the Transportation Department’s latest Air Travel Consumer Report.

Although December’s on-time performance was a somewhat middling 76.6%, the carriers ended the year with 81.9% of domestic flights arriving within 15 minutes of schedule, a nine-year high that made 2012 one of the best three years out of the last 18, the DOT said

On baggage, the carriers generated 3.09 passenger reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers during 2012, a decline from the 3.35 reports recorded for 2011 and the lowest number since the DOT began collecting this data in 1987.

Long tarmac delays also declined as U.S. carriers reported 42 such delays exceeding three hours on domestic flights last year. That’s down from 50 delays in 2011, the first full year for the tarmac delay rule.

And despite concerns that carriers might cancel more flights to avoid tarmac incidents, the overall flight cancellation rate hasn’t spiked, but averaged 1.29%, close to the record low of 1.24% set in 2002.

As for denied boarding, the bumping rate on oversold flights increased slightly to 0.99 passengers per 10,000, still below the recent high of 1.19 for 2009.

Also on the rise were consumer complaints to the DOT’s consumer office. The DOT said it received 9,131 consumer complaints against U.S. airlines last year, up 41% over the 6,469 received in 2011.

That pushed the complaint rate to 1.42 complaints per 100,000 passengers, up from 1.14 the year before. The rate was 1.21 in 2010.
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