Airline performance hits bottom

On-time arrival rate of 72.46% for January-April period is lowest in 13 years of government reports.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Flights on U.S.-based air carriers suffered more delays in the first four months of this year than in any year since the government began tracking the numbers in 1995, according to figures released by the Department of Transportation.

Of the 2,436,759 flights made between January and April of this year, 72.46 percent were on time, the department said Monday. Last year, the percentage stood at 77.18 percent.


The percentage is lower than the previous nadir, the first four months of 1996, which had 72.64 percent of 1,753,065 flights on time.

"It's not a surprise at all to me," said Kate Hanni of the Coalition for An Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights, who notes that 7 of the 11 coast-to-coast flights she has made since February suffered delays. "It's boding horribly for customers now."

Some of the nation's busiest airports ranked low in on-time performance in the latest report. New York's LaGuardia ranked 31 on the list with 58.10 percent on-time arrival rating for the first four months of 2007. Newark Liberty International Airport came in last, ranked 32, with a 55.04 percent on-time arrival rating.

The highest rated airport for on-time arrivals was Oakland, Calif., with 80.60 percent of on-time arrivals.

For the month of April alone, US Airways (down $0.49 to $33.46, Charts, Fortune 500) had the lowest level of on-time service among the airlines at 63.1 percent, followed by JetBlue (down $0.10 to $10.34, Charts) with 64.8 percent and Comair with 67.9 percent, the report said.

A USAirways spokeswoman noted that the 63.1 percent on-time service represented an improvement over May's 55.5 percent.

"But it's still not acceptable," said Valerie Wunder of USAirways, who noted the improvement, "reflects ongong fixes to our reservations system and customer service initiatives that have been put in place to run a better airline."

Aloha Airlines came in with the highest percentage of on-time flight - 95.4, followed by Hawaiian Airlines with 95.1 percent and Pinnacle Airlines with 84.2 percent.

The most frequently delayed flight was USAirways flight 1543 from Boston to Charlotte, N.C., which was late 100 percent of the time, the government said.

Complaints to the Department of Transportation regarding airline service in April shot up 76.7 percent from the year-earlier month, to 1,246. But the number of complaints was down from 1,310 in March.

"We're looking at a customer service debacle," said Hanni. "We've been predicting this since January when we've began looking into what is happening."

"I think the public is caught off guard," she said.

Representatives of the Air Transport Association were not immediately reachable for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly categorized the time frame of the report and incorrectly stated that the flight-performance percentage was for being late rather than on time. regrets the error. Top of page