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Truth In Numbers: Airlines Earn A 'D+' For 2007

Second-Worst Year For On-Time Performance Since Record-Keeping Started

The airlines' report card for 2007 is in... and they're not the kind of grades you'd be eager for your parents to see. According to information released Tuesday by the Department of Transportation, the nation's airlines experienced an even-lower rate of on-time flights, and more reports of mishandled baggage, last year than in 2006.

According to information filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), the 20 airlines reporting on-time performance to the agency recorded an on-time arrival rate of 73.4 percent in 2007, a steep drop from their 75.4 percent mark in 2006. Notably, that figure also marks the second-worst annual on-time performance by US airlines, since DOT began keeping track of such figures in 1995.

The on-time rate for 2007 surpasses the 2000 mark of 72.6 percent on-time arrivals. Hindered by ppor weather, late planes -- and, for at least one carrier, apparent labor issues -- airlines posted an abysmal 64.3 percent on-time arrival record in December, down from both December 2006’s 70.8 and November 2007's 80.0 percent marks.  

It gets worse. Among the airlines reporting to BTS, there were 7.03 reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers last year, up from 2006’s rate of 6.73. Consumers also let the airlines know how they felt in 2007; irate passengers filed 13,168 complaints about airline service with the Department, a whopping 58.2 percent more than the 8,325 filed in 2006.

According to information filed with BTS, the carriers reporting on-time performance posted a 64.3 percent on-time arrival record in December, down from both December 2006’s 70.8 and November 2007’s 80.0 percent marks.

Airlines canceled 3.5 percent of their scheduled domestic flights for the month, up from both December 2006’s 3.0 percent rate and November 2007’s 1.0 percent mark.

As bad as 2007 was... one analyst believes the worst is yet to come. "Travelers should look back on 2007 with a sense of fondness," said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, told Bloomberg. "It's going to get worse. These will be the good old days."

A full breakdown of the numbers is available on the BTS website. Here are some other highlights (and lowlights) for December --

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates 
  • Aloha Airlines – 93.0 percent
  • Hawaiian Airlines – 92.0 percent
  • US Airways – 74.5 percent
Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates   
  • American Eagle Airlines – 53.6 percent
  • Pinnacle Airlines – 54.6 percent
  • United Airlines – 54.8 percent
Most Frequently Delayed Flights 
  1. ExpressJet Airlines flight 7758 from Los Angeles to Seattle – late 100 percent of the time
  2. ExpressJet Airlines flight 7824 from Los Angeles to Spokane, WA – late 100 percent of the time
  3. United Airlines flight 789 from Chicago O’Hare to Minneapolis/St. Paul – late 96.43 percent of   the time
  4. Comair flight 5597 from Boston to Philadelphia – late 95.45 percent of the time
  5. Comair flight 5587 from Boston to Philadelphia– late 95.45 percent of the time
Highest Rates of Canceled Flights 
  1. American Eagle Airlines – 8.3 percent
  2. Pinnacle Airlines – 7.9 percent
  3. Mesa Airlines – 7.1 percent  
Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights 
  1. Frontier Airlines – 1.0 percent
  2. Hawaiian Airlines – 1.1 percent
  3. Aloha Airlines – 1.3 percent
FMI: www.bts.gov, http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov

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