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More than 1 in 5 US flights arrived late in March as airlines' on-time performance worsens

WASHINGTON – The government says that fewer flights arrived on time and more were cancelled in March than a year ago, but fewer passengers lodged formal complaints against the airlines.

The Transportation Department said Wednesday that 79.8 per cent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule in March. That’s down from 82.2 per cent in March 2012.

Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin America had the best on-time ratings at better than 87 per cent, while regional carrier ExpressJet and JetBlue Airways had the worst at 72 per cent. ExpressJet also had the highest rate of cancelled flights.

Among the five biggest carriers, Delta Air Lines was best at arriving on time, followed by US Airways, American, United and Southwest.

At major airports you were most likely to be on-time if your flight ended in Phoenix, Salt Lake City or Portland, Ore. Just as in March 2012, the worst big airport for on-time arrivals was Newark, N.J.

The Transportation Department said that it got 943 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 16 per cent from March 2012. Over the first three months of the year, however, complaints were up 17 per cent from a year earlier.

The rate of lost, delayed or damaged bags was about the same — three bags out of every 1,000 passengers — and there was a slight increase in passengers who were involuntarily bumped off a flight. Airlines routinely oversell flights because some passengers don’t show up.