U.S. News

Reports Show Decline In Airline Service

By CNBC.com Staff

No, it wasn't just you. Misery does not love company. And you can't blame it all on bad weather.

Airline delays were up in February. More accurately, on-time performance was down.

According to Bureau of Transportation statistics released Monday, the 20 airlines reporting on-time performance with the agency recorded an on-time arrival rate of 67.3% in February, down from last February's 75.3% rate and January 2007’s 73.1% showing.

Extreme weather was a factor in 1.38% of the cases, versus 1.13% in January. Weather is also considered a factor in aviation systems delays, which rose from 8.34% to 8.83%.

February did have its share of bad weather, but 8.14% of the delays were caused by factors airlines control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 6.74% in January 2007.

Mishandled baggage incidents rose to 8.23 per 1,000 passengers in February, higher than both February 2006’s 6.10 rate and January 2007’s 8.19 showing.   Cancellations just about doubled to 4.5% of scheduled domestic flights, versus a year ago. So did passenger complaints.

Airlines have been under pressure to cut costs for most of this decade, leading to less service and fewer flights. Reductions in capacity have made for fewer but more crowded flights but that has yet to cut into congestion, partly because there is a shortage of runways at some major airports. In addition, heightened security measures -- both by airports and airlines -- have complicated traveler logistics.    

Attention Passengers

The DOT report does not include information on individual carriers.  For more data, check the agency's full report.

Another report Monday, the annual Airline Quality Rating report, also found that delays and lost baggage incidents were up in 2006. The report by the Aviation Institute at University of Nebraska at Omaha and Wichita State University, however, found that complaints had stabilized. The report uses Dept. of Transportation data on 18 airlines. Southwest Airlines ranked No.1 with the least number of complaints.