A month packed with winter storms disrupted airline schedules across the country in January as the domestic on-time rate dropped to 76.3 percent. While this was an improvement over December’s 72 percent on-time arrival percentage, it was well below the 78.7 percent of flights that arrived according to schedule in January of 2010.
Leading the pack with the top performance once again was Hawaiian Airlines. The Honolulu-based carrier arrived within 15 minutes of schedule 91.2 percent of the time in January. Bringing up the rear as it did in December was New York-based JetBlue. Its flights arrived on-time just 65 percent of the time, but this was still a major improvement from the previous month’s 58.6 percent. The Northeast, which includes JetBlue’s hub at JFK International Airport, was hard-hit during January with a series of snowstorms.
The other airlines reported their on-time performance to the Department of Transportation as follows: Alaska Airlines, 85.3%; United Airlines, 84.5%; Mesa Airlines, 81.6%; American Airlines, 79.8%; US Airways, 78.6%; AirTran, 77.6%; ExpressJet, 77.1%; Continental Airlines, 76.5%; Frontier Airlines, 75.7%; American Eagle, 75.5%; Delta Air Lines, 74.6%; Southwest Airlines, 74.4%; SkyWest, 73.5% and Atlantic Southeast Airlines, 71.4%.
The largest airline at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, Delta, once again did not perform very well versus its largest competitors United and American. Its numbers were adversely affected by the early January ice and snow event that hit the deep south including its hub at the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. ATL is ill-equipped to handle winter weather and this was clearly evident with the January storm which closed the airport, cancelling thousands of flights. The ripple effect was felt across the country for days.
Southwest Airlines has also been struggling in recent months with its punctuality. The discount carrier has very short gate times for its aircraft, meaning that they typically depart for the next flight within 30 minutes of arrival and sometimes even quicker. Given this type of scheduling, if an aircraft encounters a delay early in the day it will almost certainly be delayed throughout the day on multiple flights.
During January just one airline flight operated in violation of the DOT’s three-hour tarmac rule. This was a Delta flight from Atlanta to Honolulu which was off the gate but not in the air for three hours and 31 minutes. There were 304 other flights that reported tarmac delays of between two and three hours for the month, more than one-third of which were operated by US Airways and United Airlines. A total of 3.9 percent of all flights were cancelled for a variety of reasons.
Of the 19,134 cancellations during the month, more than 6,000 were Delta and Atlantic Southeast flights. This can again be attributed to the winter storm that struck the Southeast in January. ASA is a Delta Connection carrier.
As the winter season shifts into spring in the coming week, the total number of flight delays and cancellations typically drops. The upcoming thunderstorm season will present airlines and air traffic controllers with a new set of challenges during the spring and summer months.