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Airlines Post Best On-Time Numbers Since 2003

2009 was a pretty good year for airline punctuality. The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today that “the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 79.5 percent in 2009, an improvement over 2008’s rate of 76.0 and the best annual record since the 82.0 percent on-time rate of 2003.” Of those 19 carriers, Hawaiian posted the best numbers, as it tends to do, while regional carrier Comair brought up the rear.

Another interesting tidbit, courtesy of the DOT: “U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 5.18 reports per 1,000 passengers in December, down from December 2008’s 6.96 rate but higher than November 2009’s all-time record low mark of 2.78.”

This is great for travelers, but color me unimpressed: It’s much easier to post good numbers when you’ve cut capacity as much as the industry has done.

Nevertheless, airlines are trumpeting the news. United, despite finishing sixth overall, boasted that it was first among the legacy lines. Terry Maxon, at the Dallas Morning News‘ Airline Biz Blog, was apparently amused by this (as was I) and put together a list of fabricated claims to superiority the other airlines could make. Some highlights (you should check out the rest):

“Alaska Airlines finishes first among carriers that have to fly to Alaska”

“Northwest ranks first in on-time performance among airlines owned by Delta”

“Frontier leads on-time list of airlines with funny animals on tail”

And so on.

I fully expect to see these heading airline press releases any minute. These days the airline will take the good news where they can find (or invent) it!

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