Good To Start... But Lousy Finish
This past holiday weekend, US air
travelers might have expected a break from the delays of the past.
After all, airlines had posted improved on-time performance numbers
for five months straight... passenger numbers were expected to down
from previous years... and the FAA had opened up military airspace
to accommodate the traffic.
Well, they were half-right. Things started out looking very,
very good... as Tuesday through Friday, flights arrived at their
destinations on time over 80% of the time. Thursday and Friday
numbers even exceeded 90% easily besting the industry's 2006 and
But Mother Nature then stepped in to deal a humbling blow and
expose the vulnerability of the US commercial air travel system to
weather. Saturday's numbers dropped below that day's performance in
the past two years but still approached 80%. Travelers who waited
until Sunday for their return trips experienced a truly dismal
travel day as heavy rain and snow caused delays in the upper
Midwest and Northeast and long delays rippled through the entire
As a result, less than 50% of flights arrived on time on Sunday.
Delays, on average, hovered in the tolerable mid-forty minute range
Tuesday through Saturday then zoomed up to over 70 minutes on
Sunday when over 29% of flights arrived greater than 44 minutes
late. Four and five hour delays were commonplace on Sunday... but
those passengers were the lucky ones, as Sunday also brought a huge
spike in cancelled flights.
"Those who were thinking that the US air travel delay problems
were a thing of the past will have some rethinking to do," reads a
release from flight performance tracking site FlightStats.com.
As for individual airport
performance... "every day had its dog," FlightStats said. Boston
Logan barely cracked the 35% on-time arrival level Tuesday, with
nearly as many flights arriving more than 44 minutes late. La
Guardia was the second worst airport for arrivals that day at
San Francisco (SFO) took over on Wednesday and Thursday as the
worst airport for arrivals with 66% and 62% marks. Friday was a
very good day to travel with more than 90% of flights arriving on
time across the entire system, but Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL) posted
the worst numbers on both Saturday and Sunday.
On-time arrivals at ATL plummeted to 29% on Saturday and then
got worse, much worse, dropping to just over 12% on Sunday. "There
must be lots of haggard-looking Atlantans in their offices today,
assuming they made it home at all," the company notes.
As for the best overall performance through the weekend, Salt
Lake City was the best destination with nearly 91% of its flights
arriving on time. Oakland, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul,
Dallas/Fort Worth, and Detroit all averaged better than 86% on-time
arrivals for the Thanksgiving Holiday.