Thursday, February 07, 2002

Airlines more punctual in 2001

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Airlines had one of their best years ever in 2001 when it came to arriving and departing on-time, but the statistic may have lost its luster in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks.

        According to data released by the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the nation's top 11 airlines arrived at the gate within 15 minutes of schedule 77.4 percent of the time for the year, compared with 72.6 percent for 2000.

        That improvement held for local traffic as well, with the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport registering an on-time rate of 83.7 percent for the year for arrivals and departures combined, compared with 77.3 percent for 2000.

        Delta Air Lines, which operates its second-largest hub locally, finished sixth among the top 11 carriers with an on-time rate of 78.0 percent for the year system-wide — up from a rate of 75.3 percent in 2000.

        Comair, Delta's Erlanger-based regional subsidiary, is not required to report on-time statistics to the government, and company officials Wednesday said such numbers were not available for the year. Comair's performance was affected not only by the Sept. 11 attacks, but by an 89-day pilot strike.

        Most domestic airlines cut capacity by as much as 20 percent after Sept. 11, making it easier to keep schedules.

        “Right now, the focus is on the wait time for security lines and not on whether a plane is 14 or 27 minutes late,” said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, a Washington-based passenger advocacy group. “It might come back as a concern if traffic builds back up and we're still facing the same congestion and capacity constraints, but right now, it's probably one of the least-looked at statistics.”


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