US airlines on schedule slightly more often in December

U.S. airlines are doing a slightly better job of keeping flights on schedule although more than one in five flights still arrives late.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday that 77.8 per cent of domestic flights in December arrived within 15 minutes of schedule — on time, according to the government.

That is up from 75.3 per cent the previous December, although it is down from November’s 83.7 per cent on-time rate.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance at 93 per cent, followed by Alaska Airlines at 85.3 per cent. Spirit Airlines had the worst performance, with only 68.7 per cent of its flights arriving on time.

Among the four major U.S. airlines, Delta arrived on time most often, followed by American, United and Southwest.

Passengers on 14 December flights, including four operated by American Airlines, were stuck on the ground longer than allowed by federal rules. Most occurred in the days immediately following Christmas.

Complaints to the government about U.S. airlines jumped 61 per cent, but at 1,203 they represented a tiny amount compared with the number of flights.

Spirit, a discount airline that features low fares but charges more fees than most carriers, had the highest complaint rate, more than twice as high as its nearest rival, Frontier Airlines, another budget airline. Hawaiian had the lowest complaint rate.

The on-time figures covered the 13 largest U.S. carriers, including regional airlines that operate flights using smaller planes for American, Delta and United. Some carriers, such as Allegiant Air, are not big enough to be included in the on-time rankings.