Business

Winter storms foul airlines’ on-time performance

WASHINGTON — US airlines posted one of their worst January on-time performances ever, as winter storms pounded parts of the country.

One-third of all flights arrived late, including nearly half of all flights into O’Hare Airport in Chicago. The rate of canceled flights was the second-highest ever, and reports of mishandled bags soared.

The Transportation Department reported the numbers on Tuesday.

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Twenty-one flights were stuck on the tarmac for longer than federal rules allow, with most occurring during a Jan. 2 storm in Chicago. The government said 16 involved Southwest Airlines planes that took a long time to taxi from the runway to gates at Chicago’s Midway Airport.

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Overall, 67.7 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, which the government considers on time. That was the third-worst January performance since the Transportation Department started keeping records two decades ago, beating only January 1996 and January 1999.

A year earlier, 81 percent of flights arrived on time.

Hawaiian Airlines, insulated from most of the bad weather on the mainland, had the best on-time record, 92.8 percent.

At the bottom were ExpressJet, JetBlue, and American Eagle. ExpressJet and American Eagle operate smaller regional flights that are often among the first to be canceled during storms, and JetBlue has big operations in New York and is the largest carrier at Logan Airport in Boston. Both areas were hit hard by winter storms.

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On-time rates at Logan for the airlines in the survey were 69 percent for arrivals and 71 percent for departures.

Overall, the mishandled- bag rate jumped more than 50 percent. Passengers on American Eagle and ExpressJet were most likely to have a bag lost, delayed, damaged, or stolen. Virgin America topped the bag-handling rankings.

The figures cover domestic flights of 14 airlines. Some notable carriers aren’t included, however, such as Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air, and Mesa Airlines; they’re considered too small for mandatory reporting.