February 11, 2014

Southwest logs worst on-time performance rate in December

Bad weather and operational problems in Chicago are blamed for a dismal 57.7 percent on-time arrival rate for the Dallas-based carrier.

A little more than half of Southwest Airlines’ flights arrived on time in December as bad weather and operational problems in Chicago hurt the airline’s flight schedule, making it the worst on-time performer among U.S. carriers.

But all U.S. airlines had trouble with tardiness last month as they reported an on-time arrival rate of 68.9 percent, down from 76.6 percent in December 2012. Snow and ice storms led carriers to cancel 2.9 percent of their scheduled flights, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported Tuesday.

Hawaiian Airlines, which operates in the moderate climate of Hawaii, had the best on-time performance — 92.4 percent — while Southwest’s was 57.7 percent.

Steve Hozdulick, Southwest’s senior director of operational performance, told The Associated Press that the carrier has been putting more flights into peak hours, when customers want to fly, for months. That resulted in tight schedules and caused delays when the airline fell behind. Now Southwest is going back partly to its previous approach, he said, and will “loosen up” on schedules.

Of the 16 carriers that reported on-time statistics to the bureau, American Airlines ranked ninth with an on-time rate of 70.5 percent. Its regional carrier, American Eagle, came in 14th at 60.5 percent.

The Fort Worth-based carriers had the highest cancellation rate. American Eagle scrubbed 9.4 percent of its flights in December, and American 6.5 percent. Most of the cancellations came over four days at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport when an ice storm made the runways slick.

Airlines reported 10 tarmac delays over three hours, most of them at Chicago O’Hare Airport during a snowstorm Dec. 8.

Carriers mishandled more luggage last month, with 4.55 reports per 1,000 passengers in December, up from 4.15 the previous year. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics received 1,114 complaints about U.S. airlines, up 23.5 percent from the same month last year.

US Airways, which merged with American, posted an on-time rate of 78.3 percent, fifth-best in the industry. With only 1.27 complaints per 100,000 passengers, US Airways employees earned $50 bonuses. And in 2013, the company paid out $16 million under its customer service incentive program, which is based on the bureau’s statistics.

American’s new management has implemented a similar program for employees that will start next month when the bureau reports its January 2014 statistics.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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