Feb. weather helped airlines arrive more on-time

SAMANTHA BOMKAMP AP Airlines Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mild winter weather helped U.S. airlines greatly improve their on-time rates in February, the government said Thursday, and the rate of lost or damaged bags reached a 24-year low.

The nation's largest airlines operated 86.2 percent of their flights on time during the month. That compares to the stormy February in 2011 when 74.5 percent of flights were on time.

Virgin America was most likely to get passengers to their destinations on time, with 91.7 percent of its flights arriving within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. AirTran and Hawaiian operated 91.2 percent of their flights on-time, tying for second place.

Frontier Airlines, ExpressJet and United had the worst on-time rates in February. Frontier was hit with a winter storm at its Denver hub that led to delays and cancelled flights.

The highest cancellation rates were on regional carriers SkyWest, ExpressJet and American Eagle. JetBlue, Hawaiian and Delta were least likely to cancel flights in February.

The rate of lost or damaged bags reached its lowest point since the Department of Transportation started keeping records in 1988, at just under three incidents for every 1,000 passengers.

The DOT also said Thursday that there were no tarmac delays of more than three hours for any U.S. flights operated by domestic or international carriers.

With less to gripe about, passengers complained less to the government about airline service. There was a 13 percent drop in passenger complaints compared with February 2011.