US airlines post 1 of their worst months ever for late flights and cancellations

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U.S. 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 Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The rate of cancelled flights was the second-highest ever, and reports of mishandled bags soared.

The Transportation Department reported the numbers on Tuesday.

There were 21 flights that 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.

Overall, 67.7 per cent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, which the government considers on-time. That’s the third-worst January since the Transportation Department started keeping records two decades ago, beating only January 1996 and January 1999. A year earlier, 81 per cent of flights arrived on time.

Hawaiian Airlines — insulated from most of the bad weather on the mainland — had the best on-time record at 92.8 per cent.

The bottom three were ExpressJet, at 56 per cent, JetBlue and American Eagle. ExpressJet and American Eagle operate smaller regional flights that are often among the first to be cancelled during storms, and JetBlue has big operations in New York and Boston, which were hit hard by winter storms.

About 6.5 per cent of flights were cancelled.

The rate of mishandled bags jumped more than 50 per cent. 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 operated by 14 airlines, including all the biggest ones. Some notable carriers aren’t included in the figures, however, such as Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and Mesa Airlines, because they’re considered too small for mandatory reporting.

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