News Article - May 06 2006

Philly airport last among majors in U.S. for on-time flights
  PHILADELPHIA - Many of the 31.5 million travelers who came through Philadelphia International Airport last year stayed a little longer than they might have wished. The airport has the worst on-time performance of all major airports in the U.S., The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in early Sunday editions. Analysts blame the airport's layout and location as well as the connecting hub system of U.S. Airways, the dominant carrier with 450 flights a day. Departing flights took off on time 72 percent of the time, for last place among the nation's 33 largest airports, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

   Arrivals also came in on time 72 percent of the time, for a 29th-place ranking. Flights are considered on time if they depart from or arrive at a gate less than 15 minutes behind schedule. By comparison, flights depart on time about 89 percent of the time at airports with the best records, such as Salt Lake City.

   "Things are so bad in Philadelphia that it almost caused Southwest Airlines not to come here," said Kevin P. Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, a Radnor-based organization for corporate travel managers. "There's no reliability," Mitchell said. "It affects meeting and convention planners who know that Philadelphia is not an optimal situation. There are a lot of consequences." Flights on U.S. Airways departed on time 70 percent of the time.

   The Inquirer reported that monthly data from January 2003 through December 2005 show that Philadelphia ranked last in on-time departure 11 times, more than any other airport. Chicago O'Hare International Airport, which is notorious for its congestion, ranked last eight times. Nearly three-fourths of the delays are blamed on heavy air traffic in the Northeast corridor and late-arriving aircraft. Inclement weather - from summer thunderstorms to winter snowfalls - contribute to the problem.

   So too does the airport's design, with runways jammed together on 2,100 acres between a river and a highway. A master plan calls for reconfiguring the runways to speed up landings and takeoffs, but the plan could take a decade and as much as $3 billion to implement. "With Philadelphia, a lot of it is structural," said Richard Golaszewski, executive vice president of GRA Inc., an aviation consulting firm in Jenkintown. "Unless you do something with the runway system, (if) you try to move the number of people you do here, you're going to have delays," he said.

   With the arrival of Southwest and other low-cost carriers in 2004, the number of daily arrivals and departures has grown from just over 1,200 in 2003 to nearly 1,500. The airport was the ninth-busiest in the world last year, with passenger counts up from 24.7 million in 2003 to 31.5 million last year.

   US Airways officials say they are aware of the problem and hope to fix it. Philadelphia is the airline's main international gateway and its second-largest connecting hub. "We realize the importance of Philadelphia to us," Al Crellin, the carrier's executive vice president of operations, said in March. "We're making a major commitment."

Source - AP