Winter weather delayed a third of the nation’s flights in January

03/18/2014 3:34 PM

03/19/2014 1:09 PM

Snowstorms across the U.S. delayed many flights in January as only two-thirds of domestic flights got to their destinations on time, a government report said Tuesday.

Although Fort Worth-based American Airlines posted an on-time rate of 76.5 percent, it was the fourth-best among domestic carriers and better than its three major competitors, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. As a result, American employees earned an extra $100 as part of a new bonus program designed to reward strong operational performance at the combined American Airlines-US Airways.

“Part of restoring American as the greatest airline in the world is making sure that we’re an industry leader in running a safe and reliable operation, and thanks to your hard work we’re off to a great start for 2014,” Chief Operating Officer Robert Isom wrote in a letter to employees.

Isom said the airline ranked first in on-time arrivals and baggage performance compared with its industry rivals. Employees will see the extra $100 in their paycheck later this month, Isom said.

American unveiled the employee incentive program in January that could pay workers $150 a month if operations at the airline are better than its three largest competitors. Employees earn $50 for each category win, up to a maximum payment of $150 per month. The three categories are on-time arrival, baggage performance and customer satisfaction.

The industry on-time rate of 67.7 percent in January was much lower than the 81 percent in January 2013, when severe weather was not a factor. Airlines said they canceled 6.5 percent of scheduled flights in January, up from 1.5 percent in the same month last year, the Transportation Department said in the report.

Airlines also reported 18 tarmac delays longer than three hours, sixteen involving Southwest Airlines flights at Chicago Midway Airport on Jan. 2.

Hawaiian Airlines, which operates mostly in the tropics with flights to Asia and the West Coast, had the best on-time rate, 92.8 percent. ExpressJet Airlines had the worst, 56.0 percent. Dallas-based Southwest ranked eighth with an on-time rate of 63.3 percent.

American’s on-time rate included operations at its subsidiary, US Airways. If the two airlines had reported separately, US Airways’ rate was 77.6 percent, and American Airlines’ was 75.6 percent.

Regional carrier American Eagle had the third-worst rate with only 59.1 percent of its flights arriving on time. It also reported that 11 percent of its daily flights were chronically delayed, arriving late 70 percent of the time.

Carriers reported a mishandled baggage rate of 5.54 reports per 1,000 passengers, up from 3.41 in January 2013. The department also received 25 percent more complaints against airlines in January, about 1,700 complaints for the month.

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