News Article - July 04, 2007

Airline delays worsen in May for a 5th month  
  U.S. airline delays worsened in May for a fifth straight month, and the passenger-complaint rate surged 45 percent, the Transportation Department said yesterday. Only 77.9 percent of May flights across the country arrived within 15 minutes of schedule compared with 78.3 percent in the same month in 2006, the agency said on its Web site. The complaint rate jumped to 1.13 per 100,000 passengers from 0.78 last May.

   At Philadelphia International Airport, 69 percent of the May flights arrived on time and 74 percent took off on schedule, putting it just ahead of the three New York-area airports at the bottom of the list, the government said. US Airways' Philadelphia flights in May arrived on time 59 percent of the time. Among the other major carriers in Philadelphia, American Airlines had an on-time record of 64 percent, Continental 69 percent, Northwest 70 percent, United 73 percent, AirTran, Delta and Frontier 81 percent, and Southwest 83 percent.

   In the Transportation Department report, US Airways had the highest percentage of complaints filed with the agency in May, 2.66 per 100,000 passengers carried throughout its system. In mishandled baggage, US Airways' passengers across the nation filed 7.17 reports per 1,000 customers compared with an industry average of 5.93 reports. US Airways' record was worse than it was in May 2006, but so were the records of other big airlines except AirTran.

   Nationally, flight delays in May kept 2007's on-time arrival rate at the worst since 1995, a reflection of growing aviation gridlock as carriers add flights while the Federal Aviation Administration works to upgrade air-traffic-control equipment. Bad weather at some of the biggest hubs also is slowing flying. "It's off to a bad start, and travelers need to be prepared," said George Hamlin, managing director of Airline Capital Associates in Fairfax, Va. "It's likely not to be a fun summer to travel, and that could have a dampening effect going forward."

   The on-time arrival rate has fallen each month in 2007 compared with a year earlier. For the year through May, the on-time rate is 73.6 percent, the lowest annual figure since the government began tracking the data in the current format 12 years ago, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The FAA is awaiting increased funding from Congress to speed upgrades of aging equipment that agency officials say is not adequate for the traffic loads in U.S. airspace. On May 23, the FAA said it was expanding use this summer of procedures that allowed carriers to fly around thunderstorms.

   Travel in June also began with delays. Thunderstorms and an FAA computer failure slowed air traffic at 11 major airports June 8.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer