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Is Airline Service Getting Better or Worse?

Airline service is getting better, at least by one industry benchmark: on-time performance. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 85.3 percent of all flights arrived on time in November 2011, compared to 83.2 percent a year ago.

Data available for the last full year for 2010 also show an improvement in on-time arrival over 2009.

Even the airline quality ratings published in April last year show an improving picture on three counts: better on-time arrival, lower mishandled baggage rates, and fewer people denied boarding.

You may be scratching your head and asking yourself: could that be true?

Anecdotally, airline service seems to be getting worse not better. And there have been a number of reports that airlines are padding their scheduled times to help them juice their on-time performance figures.

Then there are baggage fees. DOT data show they are growing exponentially.

In 2007, the major airlines tracked by the department earned $464 million through baggage fees; in 2011 that number had climbed to $2.6 billion.

So are airlines doing a better or worse job? We want to hear what you think.