Airline report card

The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its final report for 2009 on the on-time performance of U.S. airlines. One of the headlines is a drop in the number of lost bags, not surprising since fewer passengers are checking their luggage because of the spiraling fees airlines are charging.

Significant among the data, perhaps, is that regional airlines are at the top of the biggest complaints about air travel. American Eagle and Comair, for example, have the worst on-time arrival rates. Another regional airline took monthly honors for the longest amount of time sitting on a tarmac in December (4 hours). And Express Airlines Flight 2412 from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Newark, NJ is the third-worst scheduled flight in the nation for on-time performance.

Of course, most passengers don’t even know they’re on an Express Airlines flight since the planes are painted to look like Northwest (then) or Delta (now) airplanes. They’re not, as this week’s Frontline report on the dangers of regional airlines made more clear..

The Department of Transportation report is also a report card on airports. Here are the highlights from the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.

>> The most common time for a late flight is between 9 and 10 p.m. Only a little over half of flights arrived on time in December. The most common time for a delay for departing flights is 4-5 p.m.

>> Other than the flight listed above, the worst flight from Minneapolis is NW Flight 2215 to Fort Lauderdale. It arrives late 80 percent of the time.

>>1 out of 4 arrivals and departures at MSP is late.

>> Neither Northwest nor Delta had any tarmac delays of 3 or more hours.

>> Of major carriers, Southwest has the fewest percentage of complaints. Delta has the most.

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