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When it rains, it pours for American

On June 4, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released airline performance numbers for April. Let’s just say American won’t be putting its report card on the refrigerator.

American posted the worst overall on-time arrival rate and the highest rate of canceled flights for the month. A mere 65.3 percent of the carrier’s flights arrived on time, while 7.6 percent of its flights were canceled. For comparison, United had the second-worst on-time rate, at 72.8 percent, and Mesa had the second-highest rate of canceled flights at 3.7 percent.

If you recall, American was forced to ground over a thousand flights in April due to safety inspections. This surely impacted the numbers, so it will be interesting to see what the airline’s May performance looks like.

Elsewhere, American made a bold claim Thursday, saying its new $15 fee for all checked bags will “affect fewer than one in four customers and won’t lengthen lines at boarding gates,” according to the Associated Press. I hope this turns out to be true. But I admit I greeted the latter part of this statement with a little skepticism, even though the airline promises it will take as-yet-unspecified steps to minimize the damage. I can think of a few ideas American may be considering (self-service kiosks, roving fee collectors), but to say this fee won’t result in a prolonged check-in process is inviting extra scrutiny and potential criticism down the road.

Whew, what a rough couple of months it’s been for American. The airline has more or less embodied the instability permeating the industry, as it seems every scrap of bad luck, bad vibes, and bad press has gravitated to the carrier like mice to cheese. And with the carrier’s new baggage policy set to take effect June 15, I can’t help but think it will only get worse.

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